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Celebrating Australia Day 2024

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

26 January 2024

Statement from Australia’s High Commissioner to Tonga, HE Rachael Moore:

On Australia Day, we celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all its people. Today is an opportunity to reflect, respect and connect with all Australians who contribute to our great nation. We acknowledge Australia’s First Nations peoples, custodians of the oldest continuing culture on earth spanning more than 65,000 years. Australia is a successful, multicultural society bringing together people from across the globe with shared values of fairness, tolerance, and diversity. The more than 43,000 people in Australia who identify as having Tongan heritage make invaluable contributions to the fabric of our nation (not only on the sporting field!). Similarly, there is a community of Australians who live and work here in the Kingdom of Tonga. Thank you for the contribution you make to the ties that bind us as people and as nations.

Australia and Tonga

It has been another significant year for the friendship between Australia and Tonga. We continue to build deeper and stronger ties, building on our 53 years of diplomatic relations and over 200 years of interwoven history.

We express our gratitude to Her Royal Highness Princess Latufuipeka Tuku’aho, who worked with grace and dedication in her role as Tonga’s High Commissioner to Australia and is now undertaking her PhD at the Australian National University. We are humbled by the royal family’s ongoing commitment to the Tonga-Australia relationship, with Her Royal Highness following the precedent set by His Majesty King Tupou VI when he served as Tonga’s first High Commissioner to Australia from 2008 to 2012. We are grateful His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala chose to live and study in Australia with his family. We hope Canberra will always feel like a home away from home for you and yours.

And I thank Tonga’s acting High Commissioner to Australia, Curtis Tu’ihalangingie and Tonga’s Hon Consul General to Australia, Louise Waterhouse for their tireless service for the Kingdom and our bilateral relationship. The Kingdom of Tonga has hosted many high-level Australian visitors in the past twelve months. His Excellency, Governor-General David Hurley, and his spouse Linda Hurley, were privileged to meet with His Majesty King Tupou VI on their visit in June. Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, Assistant Health Minister Emma McBride MP and Australia’s Ambassador for Gender Equality, Stephanie Copus Campbell also visited in 2023. We were grateful for Tonga’s exceptional hosting of all our visitors, and for the opportunity to listen to your priorities and continue to work together on local, regional, and global issues that impact us all.

Regional unity amidst global challenges

As a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia is working with our Pacific family on our shared security, prosperity, and wellbeing. We look forward to Tonga taking up the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum this year. We will be here to support you in this important role.

Guided by the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, Australia stands with the Pacific family to achieve our shared aspirations, and respond to our common challenges, including the existential threat of climate change. We appreciate Tonga’s regional and global leadership on climate change action. We were proud to announce a contribution of AUD 100 million to the Pacific led Pacific Resilience Facility at COP28 late last year. We respect Tonga’s sovereignty. Through cooperation and true partnership, we achieve our best as nations, as a region and for our world.

Security partnerships

A key aspect of our partnership is cooperation in the security sectors. Over the last year our Defence Partnership has gone from strength to strength. The commissioning of Northern Command in Vava’u by Their Majesties was a memorable demonstration of the value of the Australian Defence Force and His Majesty’s Armed Forces work together. Northern Command will facilitate HMAF’s operations in Vava’u and surrounds, particularly to combat transnational crime and to boost disaster reparedness and response. Our defence forces continue to collaborate closely on disaster preparedness and response. And our joint training missions have continued to strengthen our interoperability.

The Australian Federal Police have worked with Tonga Police to respond to transnational organised crime, develop policing skills and build infrastructure, and to respond to gender-based violence.

We’re also proud to work with Tonga on our shared challenge of border security within the Pacific region. In 2023, we welcomed the establishment of a permanent presence by the Australian Border Force to work with and support the Tongan Border Security Agencies.

Assistance and recovery

We recognise that Tonga’s development has encountered recent setbacks outside of your control. Cyclones Gita and Harold, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption and tsunami and the COVID-19 pandemic have had significant impacts, at a time when your national debt repayments have spiked. We are committed to helping you in your recovery. In the past three years our development partnership has more than doubled from AUD32 million in the 2020 FY to more than AUD 82 million last year. Importantly, we have changed the way we work with you. In FY2019, only 7 per cent of our development went directly through your financial systems. Last year, this number was 60 per cent.

In addition, we have more than AUD100 million of nation-building infrastructure support in the pipeline – including a new parliament house and our contribution to the upgrade of the Nuku’alofa Port. We understand aviation connectivity is critical for economic growth, service delivery and connecting family and friends and we are proud to support Lulutai Airlines and Tonga’s aviation sector. We will also continue to support Tonga’s priorities in health, particularly in reducing non- communicable diseases. This year our health support also included the refurbishment of the obstetrics ward at Vaiola Hospital and funding a new mammogram machine to tackle Tonga’s most prevalent cancer.

We are also proud to have partnerships with civil society including the Women and Children’s Crisis Centre and LATA to support the essential advocacy and services they provide. And we value our peer partnership between the Australia and Tongan Electoral Commissions. In 2023 we deepened our engagement with Tonga’s media sector, understanding the critical role the media plays in sharing information with the public. We have also partnered with Tupou Tertiary Institute to support their high-quality research. In 2024 we will continue to work in partnership with the Government and people of Tonga to support your priorities.

People-to-people links

Sport plays an important role in the identity of both Australia and Tonga, just one of the many ties that bind us, and 2023 was a particularly big year for sport. We were thrilled to co-host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and have Foreign Minister ‘Utoikamanu join our Foreign Minister in Brisbane to watch our Matildas play. Australia was pleased to support the Pacific Games in Honiara and to fund Tonga’s table tennis para-athletes who brought home three medals. We cheered for the Tala netball team when they won gold in Honiara and made their World Cup debut in South Africa. We’re proud to partner with local sporting organisations including NRL in Tonga, Tonga Table Tennis Federation, Tonga Netball, AFL in Tonga, and Tonga Football.

Labour mobility continues to be at the heart of economic ties between Australia and Tonga, with more than 5000 Tongans currently living and working in Australia. In November, the first cohort of trained Aged Care workers departed Tonga for Australia. We value the contributions that Tongan workers make to Australian businesses, and the strong connections the program builds between our people. We are so pleased to see new Australian volunteers arrive in country this week, and we look forward to their contribution here and the people to people links this program brings. And this year we are proud to support 27 outstanding Tongan scholars to travel to Australia to study through the Australia Award programs.


On Australia Day, we reflect on our national identity as Australians, and our roles as members of the Pacific family. As we look to the year ahead, I am encouraged by the strength of our partnership with the Kingdom of Tonga. We know that only together can we build a safe and prosperous region we can all be proud of.

Our shared values as part of the Pacific family will hold us in good stead as we respond to the challenges we collectively face today, and into the future. Let us look forward to the year ahead with hope and optimism, strong in the knowledge of our enduring friendship.


#7742 Sponsored Post, sponsored by the Australian High Commission in Tonga, 29 January - 12 February 2024.