This week, Australia’s largest ever overseas police mission draws to an end with the conclusion of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
While we close the book on RAMSI, I am pleased today to announce that the Coalition Government is committing $79 million over four years for the next phase of policing support for the Solomon Islands.
Over the past 14 years, Australia together with 14 Pacific island nations has helped to restore peace and stability to the Solomon Islands.
In 2003, when the Solomon Islands reached out to Australia for assistance the lawlessness in the country was verging on outright anarchy.
Australia responded decisively and RAMSI was born. Within weeks, the boots of more than 1,500 Australian Federal Police and Australian Defence Force Personnel were on the ground.
Since then, more than 1,700 AFP personnel have served there, playing a role in rebuilding critical law and order institutions, representing the AFP’s largest offshore mission.
This mission was not without loss. AFP Protective Service Officer Adam Dunning was shot while on patrol, while Private Jamie Clark died after falling down a mine shaft when on patrol.
Two other Australians lost their lives while serving in RAMSI; Adviser Antonio Scriva and AFP Protective Service Officer Ronald Lewis.
While we close the book on RAMSI, we begin writing the next chapter about Australia’s enduring friendship with the Solomon Islands.
The Coalition Government is committing $141 million to support the Solomon Islands over the next 4 years, of which $79 million will go towards providing advice and assistance to the RSIPF.
From July 1, the new Solomon Islands Police Development Program, as well as new Justice and Governance programs, will begin. It will include 43 AFP advisors, and one fire service adviser based in Honiara.
This very significant shift from operational support to capacity development is a clear demonstration of just how far the island nation has come since 2003.
Australia ought to feel proud, not only of the grit and determination of our island neighbours, but the role we played in helping them.