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Speech at the Ministry of Education Sports & Culture (MESC), Malifa, for the new\nMESC Headquarters ground breaking ceremony.

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Samoa, 3 June 2009

Speech at the Ministry of Education Sports & Culture (MESC), Malifa, for the new MESC Headquarters Ground Breaking Ceremony.

Mr Prime Minister, Members of your Cabinet, NZ High Commissioner and the representative of the Asian Development Bank. Firstly Prime Minister, can I thank you for your very warm welcome to me to Samoa today. I am very pleased to be here.

This is my first visit to Samoa as Australia’s Foreign Minister and my visit reflects the very strong warm relationship between Australia and Samoa. We value Samoa’s relationship in the Pacific as a strong nation and we value our close association with Samoa as a partner of Australia in the Pacific. We value the working relationship in the Pacific Islands Forum and in the region generally, including for example our joint contribution to the Solomon Islands

through the RAMSI commitment.

I am very pleased to be here at this ground breaking ceremony for the building of the new headquarters for the Ministry of Education, Sport & Culture. Australia of course is one of Samoa’s key development assistance partners. Our respective Prime Ministers recently signed a partnership development agreement between Australia and Samoa. One of the key strands of that agreement is our contribution to the education of young Samoans.

Of all the things you can do for a son or a daughter, of all the things you can do for the young citizens of your nation, giving them the chance of a quality education is perhaps the best and most important.

That is why Prime Minister Rudd and I are very strongly committed to education as a priority of our development assistance program and why we are pleased to contribute to, together with New Zealand, Samoa and the Asian Development Bank, the establishment of the education headquarters here on this site.

One of the things which the Prime Minister has raised with Australia recently, are the difficulties we are all facing as a result of the global economic crisis or the global recession. It is putting pressure on many countries in the Pacific, including Samoa. It is also putting pressure on families working hard to try and give their children a better opportunity in life than they had. One of the concerns that the Prime Minister and the Samoan Government has is making sure that young Samoans, young Samoan children continue to attend school.

Following a request from the Prime Minister, I’m very pleased to announce today that Australia will contribute 2 million Australia dollars to the fee relief scheme for Samoan families and Samoan children. That’s 4 million Samoan tala.

In addition to this we are very pleased to be contributing a further 2 million Australian dollars to support curriculum development, teacher training and retention, and programs for young children with disability to give them the same education opportunities as other young Samoans have.

We are very pleased to make those two contributions in addition to our joint contribution with New Zealand, the Samoan Government and the Asian Development Bank for the education headquarters building. I also acknowledge the generous contribution that New Zealand has made to Samoa for the fee relief scheme.

So Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, I am very pleased to be here. I cannot thank both of you enough for the warm welcome you have given me. I have had breakfast with the Deputy Prime Minister and then a meeting with the Prime Minister.

We are very pleased to continue our strong program of development assistance for Samoa and are particularly pleased that a significant part of that support is for the education of young Samoans.

Whether it’s a young Australian child or a young Samoan child, whether it’s a child of the Pacific, the more we can do to invest in their education then the better off all our respective countries will be into the future.

Thankyou very much for the chance to speak to you this morning, thank you very much for your warm welcome to my visit to Samoa. And Prime Minister we very much look forward to seeing you in Australia for the Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting in Cairns.

I thank you again for the chance to address you today and to visit Samoa. Thanks very much.