The Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Choules arrived in Honiara for a three-day visit to train with, and deliver stores for, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) ahead of the general elections in April.
Australian Defence Force personnel from all services have deployed on HMAS Choules for a month-long activity to undertake engagement and training with our regional partners and other government agencies in the south-west Pacific.
The Commander of the Joint Task Group, Commander Phillipa Hay, said the deployment provides an opportunity to contribute to long-standing relationships and enduring engagement with Pacific island nations.
"The task group and I are pleased to visit Solomon Islands while working in the south-west Pacific and this visit highlights our ongoing contribution following a recent community outreach visit by the hydrographic ship HMAS Melville," CMDR Hay said.
The HMAS Choules deployment to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu is part of a continued Australian presence in the region. Next week, HMAS Choules will visit Port Vila, Vanuatu.
"We welcome the opportunity to build on these activities by strengthening ties with our Solomon Islands partners through maritime and land-based training, and support to the RSIPF in preparation for the upcoming elections," CMDR Hay added.
The port visits conducted by HMAS Choules are part of the 'Pacific Step Up' strategy, which incorporates a number of different focuses, ranging from economic and infrastructure development, combined with a renewed Australian strategic and defence commitment to the broader Pacific region, which were outlined by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as part of the 2018 APEC leadership conference in Port Moresby.
The Prime Minister identified two interconnected key areas for Australian focus, namely:
- enhanced regional economic collaboration and integration through investment in key infrastructure and economic drivers, like communications networks; and
- regional strategic partnerships and alliances to promote transparent dialogue and amicable strategic relations.
At the request of the government of the Solomon Islands, Australian Defence Force personnel are providing logistic training to the RSIPF in support of their upcoming general election.
"The program of training will be complemented by our sailors’ community outreach and padres’ church engagement," the PM said.
Defence will play a critical role in implementing the Pacific Step Up program through training, support and officer development, providing people-to-people connections and the introduction of specialised, large-hulled, multi-purpose amphibious ships to support increased engagement in the Pacific region.