His Excellency, Mr Prithvirajsing Roopun, President of the Republic of Mauritius
The Honourable Pravind Jugnuth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius
The Honourable Eddy Boissezon, Vice President of the Republic of Mauritius
The Honourable Louis Steven Obeegadoo, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Housing and Land Use Planning and Minister of Tourism
The Honourable Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology,
The Honourable Sooroojdev Phokeer, Speaker of the National Assembly,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests, fellow Australians, members of the Australian alumni community, friends of Australia
All protocol observed.
Good evening all
It’s a real pleasure to be hosting all of you here this evening, my first official event as Australian High Commissioner to the Republic of Mauritius
I mentioned earlier in my acknowledgements Australians, Australian alumni, and friends of Australia – and I think that accounts for everyone here in this room tonight!
That notion - of the bonds of friendship between Australia and Mauritius – was at the forefront of my mind as I prepared to take up this role.
2020 has been a uniquely difficult year for every country in the world. It’s thrown into sharp relief the importance of strong collaboration with our good friends and partners.
Mauritius is one of those good friends to Australia.
As Alison mentioned, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mauritius. We’ve sought to commemorate that important milestone in a variety of ways, including just last week with the launch of a joint Australia-Mauritius stamp, an initiative of the honourable Prime Minister.
Formally marking these milestones is important.
But it’s the depth of the relationship that sits behind these formal milestones that is equally important, and that’s what I’d like to give a brief sense of now.
Many of you will have seen images of the terrible bushfires in Australia last year, that caused widespread loss of property and sadly, a number of lives. You may not be aware that at the peak of the crisis, the Mauritian Government extended a helping hand to Australia, and donated some 305,000 dollars to help support the many thousands of Australians who found themselves homeless in the wake of these fires. This is true friendship in action.
Australia was pleased, for its part, to be able to contribute to Mauritius’ COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, to support vulnerable communities here.
And it’s in that spirit that I commence my appointment here.
With a great sense of responsibility, to continue the good work of my predecessors, and to ensure that this relationship continues to grow.
Australia and Mauritius are both Indian Ocean islands, and as an Australian from the western side of the country, I am very focussed on these Indian Ocean ties, and finding ways we can work together in the region, and in regional organisations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and Indian Ocean Commission
Most of you here tonight will be aware of the common interests between our two countries, but it bears repeating very briefly.
More than 30,000 Mauritians call Australian home
Over 150 Australian companies are registered in Mauritius under global business arrangements
Our links in education, gender equality and the blue economy continue to grow and these are the sectors I plan to focus on during my time here.
Australia’s only university campus in Africa – Curtin University - is here, in Mauritius
2000 Mauritian students are studying in Australia
2000 Mauritian students are studying Australian courses here in Mauritius
Australia has funded more than 150 Mauritians from the public and private sector to study in Australia since 2011, and there are countless Mauritians who have studied in Australia over the decades.
We are so very proud of the extraordinary contributions each and every one of our Australian alumni make both to Mauritius and to the bilateral relationship – and there’s some amazing examples with us here tonight.
People you might not realise have an Australian connection:
Mr Das Apana, CEO of Metro Express
Ms Claudie Ricaud, Director of the Conservatoire Francois Mitterand
Ms Karen Fook Yuen – former badminton champion and now Member of Parliament championing more women in politics
The Honourable Avinash Teeluck, Minister of Arts and Culture
This is to mention just a few – I will be here for a long time if I list all those in the room who have studied and worked in Australia! It’s these strong people to people ties that are helping drive the relationship
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the start, 2020 has been a difficult year. But I firmly believe that with strong partnerships like that between Australia and Mauritius, we will find a way to navigate through these difficult times.
Can I now invite you now to enjoy the food and drinks – our sausage rolls are made with Australian lamb, and that quintessential Mauritian dish, gateau piment, is made with Australian split peas!
Thank you once again all for welcoming me so warmly to Mauritius, and I look forward very much to working with all of you over the next three years.
1 October 2020