Australia and Fiji sign Rugby sponsorship deal to further strengthen longstanding friendship

Fijian PM Sitveni Rabuka praised the positive impact of this sponsorship on the lives of Fijian families and communities, giving young people the opportunity to dream of a future in sports.

By: Viliame Tawanakoro & Yukta Chand

In a significant return to Australia, Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka embarked on his second state visit more than three decades after his first term.

“Today (Saturday 14th October), we celebrate the beginning of my second state visit to Australia, leading the coalition between The Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT), occasionally known in English as the Fijian Political Party and the General Voters Party (GVP) from 1992 to 1999,” said Mr Rabuka.

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(Prime Minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, with Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency Hon. David Hurley, at the Admiralty House on 16th October 2023. Photo: Fiji Government)

Diplomatically invited by Prime Minister Albanese and his government, since taking office in December 2022, he has used this opportunity to update the Fijian Diaspora Community in Australia about the People’s Coalition Government’s progress.

During this official visit, Mr Rabuka celebrated a rugby sponsorship deal, further strengthening Fiji and Australia’s longstanding friendship.

(Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Minister for Defence Industry and International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, during the sponsorship deal announced at NSW Country Rugby Union on 16th October 2023. Photo: Fiji Government)

While addressing members of the Fijian diaspora last Saturday evening, Mr Rabuka stressed the need for every Fijian to work together to address socio-economic issues and geopolitical challenges collectively.

“We thank you for the cordial relationship that Fiji has with Australia. You have made a great contribution to that.”

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“Your role as residents here in Australia. Some of you call yourselves refugees, running away from difficult situations at home. Some of you are here on a personal choice,” he said.

(Prime Minister with the Fijian Community in Australia at The Fullerton Hotel Sydney on 14th October 2023. Photo: Fiji Government)

Mr Rabuka said whatever has driven you to come here and stay and work, you have contributed a lot to the economy of Fiji, particularly when we were undergoing restrictions related to COVID-19.

“Some of you would have heard me come and say this here last year: during the campaign, the international diaspora contributed $1 billion to the economy of Fiji.”

He assured them of the nation’s economic growth and highlighted Fiji’s international presence at the 78th United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Mr Rabuka expressed his commitment to fostering peace in the Pacific and worldwide. He also reflected on the recent success of Fiji Day celebrations and the repatriation of Fijians and Pacific Island pilgrims aboard a chartered Fiji Airways flight.

“This week has been a week of celebration of the Fiji Day celebrations held throughout the country, the arrival of the first missionary in Lakeba and the repatriation of the 200-plus Fijians and Pacific Island pilgrims onboard a chartered Fiji Airways flight on Thursday.”

Mr Rabuka also encouraged the Fijian diaspora to invest back in Fiji as doing business has been made easier through digital platforms and access.

He also thanked members of the Fijian Diaspora for their contributions to the economy back home and in Australia.

Drua Teams Secure New Sponsorship Deal for 2024

The Fijian and Fijiana DRUA teams are gearing up for an exciting start to next year’s Super Rugby Pacific competition, thanks to a new sponsorship deal secured under the Australian Government’s PacificAus Sports program.

The Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, and Minister for Defence Industry and International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, announced the sponsorship deal yesterday (16th October)

“Within two years of engagement in the Super Rugby competitions, we have seen the return of your investment and support in the lives of our families and communities,” Mr Rabuka said.

“Our young people now have the opportunity to dare to dream about a life that sports can offer them. Your contribution to our sporting teams through the PacificAus Sports Program, which I’m told is the most successful Australian-funded program in Fiji, will contribute to the development of our people in ways we cannot imagine right now.”

Fijian Community with the Ministers during the sponsorship deal announced at NSW Country Rugby Union on 16th October 2023. Photo: Fiji Government

Mr Rabuka praised the positive impact of this sponsorship on the lives of Fijian families and communities, giving young people the opportunity to dream of a future in sports.

He expressed gratitude for Australia’s ongoing support in developing rugby at all levels in Fiji, emphasising the values of unity, inclusivity, and character development within the sport.

“Today is also special as we acknowledge and pay tribute to the Government and the people of Australia. It would be remiss of me not to mention the DFAT’s Office of the Pacific and Australian Rugby Union. Without you, we would never have seen the rise and success of our DRUA men’s and women’s teams.”

Minister Conroy said the Australian Government understands the power of rugby that brings people together.

“Through the PacificAus Sports program, we are offering pathways for Fijian players, coaches, and officials to train, exchange and engage with Australia’s rugby community, and this enhances our people-to-people links and deepens our bonds, providing more opportunities for Fijian players, women and men, to compete in elite competitions.”

“I am pleased to announce today that the Australian Government will continue supporting the Fijiana Drua and Fijian Drua to compete in the Super W and Super Rugby Pacific competitions for the next four seasons,” he said.

The PacificAus Sports Program, a flagship initiative of the Australian Government, with a funding commitment of $52 million from 2019 to 2023, now has a new sponsorship deal for another four years.

It aims to strengthen connections between Australia and the Pacific by supporting Pacific teams and athletes to realise their sporting dreams.

Meeting with The Governor-General of Australia

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka paid a courtesy call on the Governor-General of Australia, David Hurley, at Admiralty House.

The two leaders with decorated military backgrounds shared their experiences and camaraderie. Governor-General Hurley expressed gratitude for Fiji’s warm hospitality during his official visit to Fiji the previous year, highlighting shared aspirations and mutual concerns between the two nations.

Governor Hurley thanked the Prime Minister and the people of Fiji for the warm hospitality he received while on an official visit to Fiji last year, adding it reinforced the two nations shared aspirations and commitment on areas of mutual concern.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and his delegation at the Admiralty House on 16th October 2023. Photo: Fiji Government

He thanked Mr Rabuka for his swift action in bringing Kiribati back to the Pacific Islands Forum and fostering a spirit of unity within the forum family.

“I also acknowledged Fiji’s support to regional solidarity and collaboration in areas such as climate and ocean action, economic recovery and defence and security, among other important sectors,” Governor Hurley said.

In response, Mr Rabuka said the Governor General’s visit to Fiji demonstrated Australia’s commitment to maintaining and strengthening our relations.

“I thank you for the opportunity to meet and further discuss our bilateral relations, highlighting the positive impact of our Vuvale Partnership, which has reached our people at the grassroots level.”

Mr Rabuka said he is looking forward to the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Rarotonga, next month, where the forum leaders will endorse the Implementation Plan for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

“Fiji is in support of Australia’s bid to host COP31, noting that it will be a Pacific COP and an opportunity for our region to advance and shape the narrative of change and influence and accelerate global efforts to avoid climate chaos,” he said.

Contributing Authors:

Yukta Chand is from Suva, Fiji. Currently, she is part of a student exchange program between the University of the South Pacific and Western Sydney University. Yukta is undertaking an internship at The Australia Today as a part of her academic and professional development.

Viliame Tawanakoro hails from Fiji and is currently part of a student exchange program between the University of the South Pacific and Western Sydney University. Viliame is undertaking an internship at The Australia Today as part of his academic and professional growth.

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