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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3645

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (16:25): I particularly thank the committee for doing this inquiry. As both Senator Gallacher and Senator Reynolds have said, it's an important report, and I'm sure it will certainly be one that I, as Minister for International Development and the Pacific, and, more broadly, the department of foreign affairs will look at very, very closely.

I was fortunate to visit Africa in January last year. I attended the meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa and also took the opportunity to open our embassy in Addis Ababa. Then I went down to South Africa as well. Senator Gallacher put on record the statistics about Australia's presence in Africa and they are, indeed, very impressive. There are about 170 Australian Securities Exchange listed companies worth an estimated $40 billion operating in about 35 African countries. I'm pleased that this inquiry has brought to light the work that those companies are doing. I was advised of the very positive work that a lot of those companies were doing, particularly in their community engagement. It's good to see that this report has brought that to light.

Of course, we do have strong and very enduring ties. Let's not forget the African diaspora. There are about 500,000 people of African heritage in Australia. I understand that, conservatively, they remit about $1 billion back to Africa. The remittances from Australia to Africa are very important.

There are a couple of things that Australia is doing in Africa that I do want to mention in particular. During my visit, I was very pleased to announce that Australia would partner with the African Union Commission to support its very important work in empowering women in Africa. This was a million-dollar investment to complement the gender focus of our Australian development assistance across Africa, including our flagship Australia Awards program. As at last year, we had over 5,500 Australia Awards alumni, and the professional development that this has given to people in very important areas is very pertinent to Africa's development.

I will also mention a couple of really inspiring visits that I had. One was work that was being done by CBM Australia, which supported the national clubfoot program at the CURE children's hospital. We had a wonderful visit to the Hamlin fistula hospital to see the wonderful work that Catherine Hamlin does and that her foundation has done in that hospital. She has done this work and given hope to so many women across Africa who have suffered greatly as a consequence of childbirth and the problems associated with childbirth. To see some of their faces in that hospital was truly amazing. She is truly an amazing woman.

Debate interrupted.