Australia is stepping up the level of bilateral relations with Palau as it now in the motion recruiting staff members for its newly opened embassy here. The embassy will also have its first Resident Ambassador in early 2020.

In an interview Wes Knight Chargé d’Affaires of the Australian Embassy said Canberra has now set up an office in Palau in lieu of an announcement made Prime Minister in 2018 of its intention to open missions in every country in the Pacific region.

Knight said the set up of the embassy here is a step up of its engagement with Palau adding that Australia’s presence will also increase “opportunities and how we can work together and grow our engagement in the region.”

“We are always talking with Palau and other nations in the region and how we can work together,” Knight said.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia, its government will provide an estimated $8.4 million in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the North Pacific in 2019-20.

It said that with the Pacific step up, Australia will assist Palau in mitigating the impacts of “severe climate, tidal and oceanographic events, through the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific, and strengthen governance and accountability, through the Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration, the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre and the Pacific Regional Audit Initiative.

He added that the Pacific is always part of Australia’s backyard and its presence now in Palau, it will make it easier to reach out to the nation and discuss how they can better provide assistance.

Knight said Australia would also be providing support to Palau as it hosts the Our Ocean Conference next year.

In an earlier statement, DFAT Minister Marise Payne said the new missions are “a further boost to our diplomatic representation in the region under the Pacific Step-up.

“The Pacific is our home. Through the Step-up, we are working more closely than ever with our Pacific partners to respond to our region’s priorities.”

Australia has provided contribution valued at AUD2 million over the four years to 31 December 2020 to Palau in an effort to reform Palau’s ICT sector and increase access to high quality, low-cost internet services.

Australia’s aid program also contributed to the permanent removal of 18,736 pieces of unexploded ordnance from Koror and Peleliu.

It also assisted 2 Palauans to gain tertiary qualifications linked to Palau’s development priorities since 2012. (Bernadette H. Carreon)