Latest South West Pacific Engagement Program Begins

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23 April 2019

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) continues to enhance its regional engagement with the deployment of a Task Group to Tonga this week as part of a wider three nation visit program.

The deployment, part of the Pacific ‘Step Up’, will also include visits to Tuvalu and Samoa between April and July by around 120 Defence members, including the crews of HMA Ships Gascoyne and Sirius.

Commander of the Task Group, Lieutenant Colonel Will Harvey said the force would continue the ADF’s focus on partnership and capacity building.

“Security and stability in the South West Pacific is a priority for all nations in the region,” Lieutenant Colonel Harvey said.

“Defence’s ongoing contribution to the Government’s enhanced regional engagement initiative demonstrates Australia’s commitment to our Pacific partners.

“We continue to help regional security forces strengthen their capacity and protect their sovereignty.”

Central to the Task Group’s deployment will be a series of bilateral activities including engagement with local security forces, cultural exchanges, and discussions between security leaders.

Lieutenant Colonel Harvey said the collaborative nature of the visits offered an opportunity to learn from each other and further develop the bonds between the security forces.

“The recent ADF visits to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu under the enhanced regional engagement program have been valuable in reinforcing these critical relationships,” Lieutenant Colonel Harvey said.

“These visits build upon a strong foundation of shared historic, cultural and military experiences and a common interest in a peaceful and secure region.”

The Task Group will visit Tonga from 23 to 26 of April, Tuvalu from 30 April to 4 May and Samoa from 24 June to 4 July 2019.

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