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Australian police at the forefront of supporting safety and security of Pacific region in 2023

The AFP has more than 100 members based in nine nations across the region.

The AFP has undertaken important work across the Pacific in 2023, working closely with Pacific police counterparts to ensure the safety and security of their communities.

The AFP has built on its strong and enduring partnerships throughout 2023 by listening to the needs of the local police forces and being a close friend and ally.

The AFP has delivered training programs, provided a broad range of equipment, and shared knowledge and expertise through regional capability development programs across the Pacific. 

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AFP Commander Pacific Melinda Phelan said the AFP was proud to work side-by-side with its Pacific police counterparts and support the outstanding work of our partners to protect their communities.

“Our Pacific police partners work hard every day to ensure their communities are safe and secure.’’

Commander Phelan said:

“The AFP sees the hard work being done and feels very privileged to play an active role in combatting transnational crime and other shared threats impacting our region.

“Our members based across the region are learning from their Pacific colleagues just as much as they are giving. They are learning the Pacific way of life, which they will have with them forever, and they are honoured to have been welcomed into the communities they are serving in.

“We look forward to continuing to build on the great partnerships we currently have across the Pacific by enhancing our levels of support and exploring the possibilities for what we can achieve together in the years to come.”

The AFP has more than 100 members based in nine nations across the region, where they work with local police forces to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to protect their communities against threats from crime, environmental impacts and beyond. 

AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw and police chiefs from 19 Pacific police forces came together in August 2023 to celebrate more than 50 years of the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP).

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The PICP forum supports Pacific police leaders to share information, knowledge and form stronger partnerships to further combat transnational crime and other shared security challenges in the Pacific.

Pacific Police Development Program Regional (PPDP-R)

The PPDP-R has had another busy year supporting its policing partners. The Pacific Community for Law Enforcement Cooperation (PCLEC) assisted with coordinating 36 operational engagement requests in 2023, spanning across all five of the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP) priority areas of intelligence, investigations, officer wellbeing, gender and family harm, and emergency management.

Additionally, the Law Enforcement Cooperation Program (LECP) was launched in July 2023. This team aims to strengthen the capability of Pacific Police and law enforcement agencies through the provision of short-term operational support, specialist operational training, procurement of essential operational resources and targeted capability development. Since August, the LECP has approved 39 requests to support our Pacific partners.

Highlights of 2023 include:

  • Hosting the 2023 PICP conference where Pacific police leaders came together to reaffirm their commitment to combat transnational crime together;
  • Through the small grants program, PCLEC helping to boost the capability of Pacific police organisations by funding a variety of initiatives including the provision of uniforms, computers, training for basic investigations and interviewing vulnerable witnesses; and
  • Continuing to help increase cyber safety awareness across the region and enhance cybercrime investigations capabilities by rolling out the Cyber Safety Pasifika program in Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa to police participants from across the Pacific.
  • Supporting regional working groups, including the Pacific Forensics Working Group to drive forward capability uplift in key thematic areas.
Fiji Rembrence Day 2 1
Image: Fiji Remembrance Day (Source: AFP)

Fiji

AFP Suva post celebrated another year of policing engagement, operational cooperation and increasing shared Pacific police capability by working with its sisters and brothers within the Fiji Police Force (FPF) and wider Pacific policing community.

This included delivering cutting-edge AFP fire investigation training to police forces across the Pacific, supporting Pacific United Nations pre-deployment training, developing advanced policing techniques within Fiji’s transnational crime unit (TCU), and using AFP specialist teams in-country or providing training to enhance Fiji Police’s human source handling capability.

Highlights of 2023 include:

  • AFP Suva post working with AFP officers in the Norfolk Island Police Force and the FPF Cybercrime team to deliver a ground breaking successful cyber bullying prosecution;
  • As part of Operation Blue Prosperity, the Pacific Transnational and Serious Organised Crime Taskforce seized 48kg of methamphetamine, restrained FJD 400,000 in assets and made 18 arrests in the past 12 months; and
  • AFP Suva Post leading a whole-of-Australian government effort to develop a Fijian Maritime Framework among Fijian security partners to interdict crime in the maritime domain.
AFP Sergeant Nigel Wood and Mr. Enoka Feterika with the NPF Team 1 2
Image: AFP Sergeant Nigel Wood and Mr. Enoka Feterika with the NPF TeaM (Source: AFP)

Nauru

The Nauru Australia Policing Partnership (NAPP) strengthened operational effectiveness and shared policing capabilities with its Nauru Police Force (NPF) family in 2023. The past year provided numerous examples of the benefits and positive impacts of increased Pacific police engagement and cooperation.

Highlights of 2023 include:

  • NAPP and its partners undertaking a significant unexploded ordinance (UXO) discovery and disposal operation, when about half the island’s population was from their homes to allow for the safe removal of a World War 2 UXO;.
  • The AFP-led Cyber Safety Pasifika program delivered to more than 50 police officers and other government partners in Nauru; and
  • In October and November 2023, NPF received a significant boost to its investigation and forensic capabilities with the delivery of a bespoke investigations training program and the acquisition and adoption of fingerprint comparison software. Both initiatives further enhanced the NPF’s ability to maximise its impact in the fight against crime, both locally and across the region.

Papua New Guinea

The AFP continued to build on its deep and trusted police-to-police partnership with the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) throughout 2023, through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership (PNG-APP).

Highlights of 2023 include:

  • Operation Gepard, a joint AFP and RPNGC Transnational Crime Unit investigation, where five alleged criminal syndicate members were charged in Australian in March 2023 after allegedly orchestrating a black flight from PNG to Australia with 52kg of methamphetamine on board;
  • The AFP working closely with the RPNGC to identify two Malaysian nationals responsible for the movement of narcotics to Australia. A search warrant uncovered 124.7kg of methamphetamine and resulted in a total of five arrests. In October 2023, the two Malaysian nationals were sentenced 25 years and 20 years imprisonment respectively.
  • The AFP continued to boost the capability of the RPNGC through various initiatives including handing over more than $70,000 in essential safety equipment to RPNGC to bolster the safety of their water police officers and supporting RPNGC officers travel to Canberra to observe various AFP training programs to take back to their National College of Excellence.
  • To enhance local emergency response in addition to providing essential first response capacity to AFP members, PNG-APP have supported the placement of Australian paramedics at St John Ambulance stations in Kokopo and Mt Hagen. The paramedics will serve alongside local ambulance station staff on the frontline, reinforcing existing services and providing on-the-job support and tuition to their ambulance colleagues, to support the wider community.
Samoa motorcycles 3
Image: Samoa – motorcycles (Source: AFP)

Samoa

The AFP continued its strong relationship with Samoa Police, Prisons and Corrections Services (SPPCS) to maintain a safe and stable Samoa in 2023, through the AFP-led Samoa-Australia Police Partnership (SAPP) program.

Highlights in 2023 include:

Solomon Islands Kukum handover 4
Image: Solomon Islands – Kukum handover (Source: AFP)

Solomon Islands

AFP members based in Solomon Islands stood side-by-side with their Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) counterparts to successfully deliver the security operation for the 2023 Pacific Games. This support was delivered under the RSIPF and AFP Policing Partnership Program (RAPPP) and Solomons’ International Assistance Force (SIAF).

Highlights of 2023 include:

Tonga Families Free of Violence event 5
Image: Tonga_Families Free of Violence event (Source: AFP)

Tonga

The AFP continued to provide support to Tonga Police through the Tonga-Australia Policing Partnership (TAPP) in 2023. It is a multi-faceted capability-building program targeting Tonga Police priorities. These include institutional resilience and governance, security cooperation, transnational organised crime, gender-based violence – including the protection of women and children – and generalist policing skills development.

Highlights include:

  • TAPP providing funding to Tonga Police for a range of initiatives including to purchase new police uniforms; upgrade equipment, tools and facilities for the Tonga Police mechanical workshop; provide new musical instruments for the police band; and obtain gym equipment to support Tonga Police health and welfare programs;
  • TAPP supporting Tonga Police members to attend training programs to increase capability in areas such as forensics, fire investigations, and close personal protection.
  • TAPP funding the construction and refurbishment of Tonga Police facilities, including the ICT office at Tonga Police headquarters, the Canine Unit facility and the Transnational Crime Unit (TCU); and
  • TAPP continuing to deliver the Tonga Families Free of Violence (FFOV) program, supporting survivors of family violence to access better quality services and ongoing support.
Vanuatu Uniforms 2 6
Image: Vanuatu – Uniforms (Source: AFP)

Vanuatu

The AFP had another successful year working closely with the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) through the Vanuatu-Australia Policing Justice Program (VAPJP).

Highlights in 2023 include:

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