Speech, Solomon Islands National University


Gudfala aftanun yufala evriwan! (Good afternoon everyone).

Thank you to the Solomon Islands National University, and to you, the future leaders of this country, for inviting me here.

It is a pleasure to meet you during my first trip to Solomon Islands, and the Pacific region, since being appointed as the Australian Communications Minister last year.

One month ago, my friend and colleague Pat Conroy, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, visited this campus.

He spoke about shared opportunities like enhancing education, skills and labour mobility, and shared challenges: the most pressing being climate change.

Let me reiterate, Australia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our Pacific family to address this challenge urgently – all of our futures depend on it.

Minister Conroy spoke about Australia’s enduring friendship with Solomon Islands, a friendship built on a shared ocean and history, on shared values and a mutual love of sport – one that goes beyond football.

We saw how the world got behind the Women’s Fifa World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It was wonderful to see the home village of Mary Fowler’s mum, Kira Kira near Port Moresby, cheer-on the young Matilda’s star striker.[2]

Soon, sports-loving audiences will be cheering on their countries, teams and athletes here at the 2023 Pacific Games.

Australia is proud to have funded the Pacific Games Water Sports Facility, one of 12 venues in Solomon Islands, set to play host to thousands of athletes.

We have also refurbished school dormitories to serve as athlete accommodation, funded expert advisors and provided sporting equipment.

I am excited to see your national television service expand features, such as live streaming, in time for the upcoming Games.

Australia is working with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) to help these Games reach even wider audiences across Solomon Island provinces.



This is just one example, of many, that show how our two countries are working together to enhance connectivity and digital inclusion.

As university students, you know how important it is to have reliable internet and access to the opportunities the digital ecosystem presents.

This is not a privilege, but a necessity in today’s hyper-connected world.

Solomon Islands is at an important juncture to harness the opportunities and respond to the challenges presented by the digital transformation.

Today, I want to share some of the ways Australia is supporting this:


  • Through skills and training that will amplify Pacific voices and enable more local content to be made for local audiences;


  • Through robust communications infrastructure and modern postal services that will promote e-commerce and entrepreneurship;


  • What Australia is doing to promote safe online environments, digital skills and empowering women and girls;


  • And, finally, the importance of collaborating to ensure a better-connected future for everyone.


First though, I would like to share a little of my story, which, like many Australians, is one of migration, and one that has Pacific roots.

My Fijian mother met my Australian father when he was stationed in Suva in 1952. For several years, they ventured to islands across the Pacific before migrating to Australia with my two older siblings in tow.

As a first-generation Fijian-Australian, I was blessed to grow up surrounded with island stories and culture.

My uncle Nick travelled to Papua New Guinea in the 1960s, to help lay a submarine cable with Boral, connecting communities in Papua New Guinea with the region and the world.

Fast forward to today, Australia has partnered with Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea to co-deliver the Coral Sea Cable - 4,700 km of fibre-optic cable connecting Honiara to Auki, Noro and Tarothrough to PNG and Sydney.

When our Government was elected last year, I became Australia’s first Cabinet Minister of Fijian heritage.

I am proud to be part of Australia’s most diverse Government to-date, with an impressive number of women on the frontbench.

Like our Government, Australia is as culturally diverse as it has ever been.

Our country is enriched by a broad tapestry of cultures, including those of the 200,000 people living in Australia with Pacific-Island heritage.

It’s the stories of our migrants and our First Nations Australians, dating back more than 65,000 years, that shape our identity and how the world sees us.

As Communications Minister, I am interested in who gets to tell these stories, because, as the saying goes, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.


Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy

On the radio, on television and online, Australia’s public broadcasters - the ABC and SBS - help share these stories across our vast continent, and throughout the Pacific.

Australian audiences, meanwhile, are enjoying increased coverage of Solomon Island affairs thanks to ABC’s Honiara-based local journalist Chrisnrita Aumanu-Leong.

We want to hear even more of your stories and voices!

The Memorandum of Understanding, exchanged between the ABC and SIBC in March will foster this.

This agreement solidifies a joint commitment to collaborate, share content and develop skills.

Importantly, it recognises the crucial role that national broadcasters play to connect, inform, educate and entertain us all.

For more than 15 years, the ABC has worked alongside the Solomon Islands’ media sector to develop skills, quality journalism and content production.

Funded through our Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, the aim is to support a diverse Pacfic media landscape and see more women in the media.

These are goals we are also striving for in the Australian media landscape.

To give you access to more Australian content - and vice-versa - we are providing more than $40 million (AUD) for the ABC to improve transmission infrastructure and content production across the Pacific and Timore Leste.[7]

This will see a new pan-Pacific weekly video news program and network of local journalists to run it.

Australian programming will be tailored to better suit local time-zones and ABC staff will provide expert training in areas like election and disaster reporting.

To give Pacific audiences even more variety, we are providing $5.7 million (AUD) a year to deliver programing from Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters: shows like 60 Minutes and Neighbours.  


Unlocking e-commerce opportunities

Telecommunications connect with our friends, families, communities and the wider-world.

Connectivity keeps us informed during disasters and supports businesses and communities to grow.

Since opening internet access through the Coral Sea Cable, Australia has been proud to support development of mobile-money app, M-Selen and the National E-Commerce Strategy – which is helping local businesses sell local products.

We are unlocking more opportunities through the Pacific Postal Development Partnership between Australia and the Pacific.

This week, new electric-delivery vehicles, motorbikes, IT and sorting equipment, as well as uniforms and supplies, will be delivered to Solomon Post.

Equipment for Fiji, PNG, Tonga and Vanuatu will arrive over the coming weeks, with Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Tuvalu to follow later this year.

This will improve reliability and e-commerce opportunities for Pacific island citizens and businesses alike.

I look forward to meeting bright young e-commerce entrepreneurs during my visit to find out more about their business ideas.

It is them, and young Solomon Islanders like you, who are embracing the opportunities of connectivity to build a better future.

Promoting safe and inclusive participation online

The internet and technology benefit our lives, but they can also expose us to risks like harassment and cyberbullying, exploitation and harmful content.

Everyone deserves to connect in online environments that are safe, inclusive and free from harm.

In Australia, many young people are having negative experiences online.

Sadly, the majority of cyberbullying and cyber abuse reports made to eSafety were from women and girls.

Technology-facilitated abuse is not unique to Australia – and no one country can address this growing problem alone.

The international community must work together to improve online safety and ensure women and girls are not left behind.

We want to empower young people to be respectful, resilient digital citizens, and equip them with skills to protect them from experiencing harm online.

This is a critical aspect of digital transformation.

Work in this area is being facilitated through forums like the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – to which Australia has been a long-term partner.

ITU Asia-Pacific regional initiatives include projects to digitally upskill vulnerable groups: women and girls, people with disabilities and older people.

Australia is supporting Plan International to work with youth and families in Solomon Islands to raise awareness of online safety.

And we are working with Pacific partners to build resilience to harmful cyber-attacks, like we saw in Vanuatu, Tonga, Thailand and Australia,

Australia and Solomon Islands are both members of the Pacific Cyber Security Operational Network, sharing best practice on cyber-security threats, digital-investigation techniques and community awareness.

On the ground, the Australian Federal Police are helping the Solomon Islands police to address the growing challenge of cybercrime.

Longer-term, we are supporting the Solomon Islands Government to implement cybercrime legislative reforms.

Following the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga in January last year, Australia helped re-establish telecommunication services.

At the request of the Solomon Islands Government, we are building six telecommunications towers in partnership with Our Telekom to increase connectivity on the western border. These towers are in the Shortland Islands, Choiseul, Isabel and on Ontong Java.

We are strengthening regional collaboration through the Pacific ICT Ministerial Dialogue and the Asia Pacific Telecommunity Policy and Regulation Forum for Pacific, that I am attending in Papua New Guinea next week.



In closing, the Pacific is an important, fast-growing region. It is my home and it is your home.

When the Australian Government was elected last year, we came to office on a platform to build a better future for all, with no one left behind.

This means building a better-connected future in Australia and the Pacific region.

I look forward to working with you – the leaders of tomorrow - to harness the potential of the digital transformation and amplify Pacific voices.

To work towards our shared goal of a peaceful and prosperous Pacific region, with no one left behind.

‘Tugeda, yumi na moa strong.’ (Together we are stronger)