Celebrating the Australia-Ghana partnership on Australia Day
By Her Excellency Berenice Owen-Jones, Australian High Commissioner to Ghana
Australia Day, marked on 26 January every year, is an occasion to celebrate contemporary Australia and its people, reflect on what it means to be Australian, and acknowledge our history.
It was on 26 January 1788that the First Fleet of 11 convict ships arrived in Sydney Harbour from England, so beginning the first permanent settlement of Europeans on Australian soil. The Commonwealth of Australia itself came into being on 1 January 1901.
But that is just the most recent part of our story – because prior to European settlement, Australia was settled by Indigenous Australians for many millennia – according to some scholars for as long as 60,000 years–the world’s oldest continuing civilisation.
Australia – a continent and the sixth largest country in the world –is a nation like no other. It is one of 17 countries that together account for more than 70 percent of the world’s species. We are also home to almost 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, from tropical rainforest in the north, to the red deserts of the centre, and the snowfields of the south-east.
Modern Australia is a thriving nation, a G20 member with the 12th largest economy, influential in its own region – the Indo-Pacific – and with global interests and partnerships.
We have a highly skilled workforce and some of the highest living standards in the world. Australian cities are regularly listed in the top ten most liveable cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global liveability index. Innovation is in our DNA, and drives Australian enterprise, science and research sectors as well as responses to global crises.
Our success as a nation reflects our varied origins. Australia is home to people from more than 300 different ancestries. We are an egalitarian nation whose citizens share common ground with so many of the world’s peoples. The world has come to Australia, and as a result, Australia is profoundly connected to all regions of the world through family, ethnic, and cultural ties. This is an asset – an element of national power – that few countries can match.
Today, more than 7,500 Ghanaians call Australia home. As well as deep people-to-people links, we have a long-standing bilateral relationship with Ghana – Australia was one of the first countries in the world to recognise the newly independent Ghana in 1957. This relationship is underpinned by cooperation through the Commonwealth and other international organisations, as well as shared values and interests including in supporting the international rules-based order; free trade and investment; and action on climate change.
Australia particularly values Ghana’s commitment to peace and security on the international stage – including during its current tenure on the United Nations Security Council – and in the region. We share concerns over the growing threat of terrorist activity in the Sahel and appreciate the challenge this is presenting for coastal states. We are helping build capacity in countering terrorism and violent extremism including through the International Counter-Terrorism Academy in Côte d’Ivoire and the UN Office of Counterterrorism in Morocco. The annual West Africa Mining Security Conference, organised by the Australian High Commission in Accra, also brings together subject matter experts, security practitioners, academics and the mining industry to discuss regional trends and operational challenges.
Our commercial links are also significant, underpinned by Australia’s investment in the mining sector. Australian companies are involved in every aspect of the industry, from surveying and exploration, mine design and construction, to contract drilling and excavation. These companies play a significant role in the development of Ghana’s extractives sector. For example, Australian mining exploration company Atlantic Lithium is developing what will be Ghana’s first lithium mine.
Australian companies have an excellent track record of initiatives aimed at improving the infrastructure and social welfare of staff and local communities as well as transferring knowledge, skills, and expertise to their Ghanaian workforce– many of whom are now in key mining positions right across Africa and in other parts of the world. With Australian mining companies’ current and prospective investment across Africa estimated at over40 billion AUD, this fruitful partnership will continue.
Since 2004, in Ghana and across West Africa, the Australian High Commission has delivered over 200 projects through our Direct Aid Program, bringing tangible benefits to local communities in the areas of health and sanitation, education and skills training, human rights, income-generation, renewable energy, and women’s economic empowerment.
In the last two decades the Australian Government has also supported over400 Ghanaians to undertake study, research, and professional development at premier Australian tertiary institutions through the Australia Awards program. These scholars were able to tap into Australia’s leading-edge expertise in fields such as public policy, health, agricultural technologies, renewable energy and mining, and have returned to Ghana with knowledge, skills and networks that will benefit their workplaces and communities.
These links contribute to our collaboration with Ghana and other African countries in responding to the challenges of climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, and energy transition.
More broadly, education is a promising avenue for Australia and Ghana to continue to further develop our relationship. Australia has a world class-education system and is the world’s third most popular destination for international students.
Looking to the future, there are exciting times ahead for Australia in Ghana, as the Australian Government reinvigorates ties with Africa. Just last month, Australian Assistant Foreign Minister the Hon. Tim Watts’ visit to Ghana underscored that we have important bilateral, strategic and economic interests.
We will continue to strengthen our partnership to promote an international system governed by rules; to combat terrorism; to tackle climate change; to develop our economic links; and share knowledge and skills. Australian mining companies will continue to contribute to Ghana’s economic development. At the same time, we will diversify our economic links, and take up opportunities in education, green energy, food and agriculture, as well as science and technology.
Australia and Ghana are on the opposite sides of the world but together we can continue to overcome the tyranny of distance.