Today I visit Nuku’alofa to highlight Australia’s close economic and security relationship with Tonga. Australia and Tonga have a long-standing partnership built on common interests in the peace and prosperity of our region and supported by strong people-to-people connections.

On my first visit to Tonga as Foreign Minister, I will meet with Prime Minister Pohiva and his Cabinet to discuss Tonga’s important economic and political reform agenda.

Australia is a vital partner to Tonga in its defence and security and I will visit Mansfield naval base to inspect the three Australian-supported patrol boats. The Patrol Boats Program assists Tonga to protect fisheries, combat transnational crime and strengthen maritime security.

I will participate in a roundtable discussion with government, business and industry stakeholders on how to encourage private sector development in Tonga. I will also visit an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research project which is helping revitalise Tonga’s pearl industry.

I will also announce $400,000 in grant funding for two innovative private sector initiatives to support smallholder vanilla farmers to improve agriculture practices and boost economic development.

With the Minister for Internal Affairs, the Hon Fe’eamota Vakata, I will visit the Tonga Women and Children’s Crisis Centre. The Australian Government is providing funding of $450,000 in 2014-16 to this Centre as part of the Australian aid program’s long-standing support to women in Tonga.

Improving health outcomes in Tonga is an essential component of Australia’s aid program and I will also announce $200,000 to support a new partnership with Tonga’s Ministry of Health. This funding will support the development of a new national strategy to control and prevent non-communicable diseases, a major cause of death in the Tongan community.

I will also launch the New Colombo Plan in Tonga, with 16 young Australians to study and work in Tonga this year. Ten nursing students from the University of Canberra will complete four week clinical placements in a health facility and six students from the University of the Sunshine Coast will complete psychology and tourism placements.

Media enquiries

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