July 5, 2024

Inquiry into Australia’s response to the priorities of Pacific Island countries and the Pacific region

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into Australia’s response to the priorities of Pacific Islands and the Pacific region. 

The IRU has greater engagement with the Pacific than any other group of Australian universities. We recognise the significant investment made by the Australian Government in strengthening Pacific partnerships. There is, however, still much to do to enhance the relationship between Australia and its Pacific neighbours and we believe that education cooperation and research collaboration can play a valuable role in the next phase of our partnership. 

The IRU believes that investment in collaborative and equal partnerships — taking into account the priorities of the Pacific region — are critical to Australia’s future actions. 

 Key recommendations: 

  • The Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent should inform the committee’s response to this inquiry. 
  • In line with Pacific and Australian priorities, particular areas of focus for future collaboration should include: 
    • Inclusive, equitable and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities. 
    • Stronger collaboration on climate change mitigation and clean energy for regional economic development. 
    • Adoption of new technologies in education and health. 
  • Co-designed capability development programs that incentivise skilled workers to remain in the Pacific. 
  • Increased Pacific cultural heritage awareness among Australian academics, researchers and policymakers through greater Australia to the Pacific mobility and connection to Pasifika communities in Australia. 
  • To address geopolitical, security and emergency management challenges, support deeper people-to-people links and complementary research partnerships. 
  • The Australian Government should fund the new Australia-Pacific university mobility and collaboration initiative co-designed and proposed by the IRU and USP.