In February 2020, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Marise Payne requested the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee to inquire into strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region.
UnitingWorld made a submission in April and was published on the Committee’s website here.
We made the following recommendations:
1. Engage with and through Christian churches in Pacific countries
- Christianity is the dominant paradigm in the Pacific, it is the language of life and culture.
- Churches are the most influential non-government community network in the Pacific.
- Existing church-led Australian engagement can be leveraged for growth and impact.
- Pacific diaspora embedded in Australian churches can be leveraged.
2. Engage with Pacific Regional Christian organisations
Regional multi-church organisations such as the Pacific Conference of Churches, and similar bodies at national level, are places that draw together influential leadership from across the Pacific communities and provide a valuable space for high return on relational investment.
3. Deal with the issue of climate change with integrity
This is the biggest existential issue in the Pacific, driving both rapid-onset disasters and slow-onset destruction of livelihoods. Acknowledge that this is not just an ‘aid’ issue but one that requires regional and global collaboration on a range of fronts.
4. Create space for alternative models of development
Recognise that development and social flourishing for the Pacific people must be self-determined with due weight given to indigenous wisdom, culture and context. GDP and economic growth may not be the desired indicators.
5. Address the Pacific societal impacts of the labour mobility scheme
The current high rates of working age adults spending extended periods away from their partners and children is causing significant social dysfunction in Pacific communities. Increased remittance income is being offset by marriage breakdown, juvenile delinquency and addiction issues.
6. Align Australia’s emission control policies to signal a clear commitment to climate change mitigation
Australia’s credibility in the Pacific is significantly contingent on a consistent policy approach to climate change. Offering aid-based solutions to the Pacific while signalling a lack of commitment to curbing fossil fuel emissions locally is counter-productive.
Due to COVID-19 and its impact on countries in the Pacific, the date for submissions been extended to 30 June.