The Edition
facebook icon twitter icon instagram icon linkedin icon


OpEd: Australia and Maldives: Indian Ocean Partners

Opinion Editorial by David Jessup, Australia’s First Resident High Commissioner to Maldives

22 May 2024, MVT 11:57
50th Anniversary Reception.-- Photo: Australian High Commission in Maldives
22 May 2024, MVT 11:57

Today marks the first anniversary of the opening of Australia’s High Commission in the Republic of Maldives. As Australia’s first resident High Commissioner based in Malé, I have been overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome extended to me and the High Commission staff.

With Australia now having a permanent presence in Maldives, I am committed to further strengthening the bonds between our peoples and to broadening the scope of cooperation between our governments.

This year we mark fifty years of diplomatic relations, but our history goes back much further. It is no great surprise that some of the earliest contact between Australia and Maldives arose from us being neighbours across the Indian Ocean. There are stories of lost Maldivian seafarers being rescued and taken on an adventure to Australia before being repatriated, and Australian seafarers getting marooned on Maldivian reefs and staying for the surf. Our Indian Ocean links remain strong and important to this day.

The strength of our people-to-people links provides the foundation of our relationship. The friendship between Maldives and Australia is built, in part, on our common belief in the power of education. For more than 60 years, Maldivians have travelled to Australia to study and gain valuable skills, before returning home and applying those skills and experience to develop the nation.

More than 700 Maldivians have completed their studies in Australia through programs like the Australia Awards. Many more Maldivians have chosen to study in Australia under a Government of Maldives scholarship or have self-funded their study in Australia.

I am full of admiration for those Maldivians who chose to leave family and friends behind to study in Australia. I meet Australian alumni wherever I go, and I am reminded daily how valuable those sacrifices and investments are. You are the bedrock of the strong people-to- people links between Maldives and Australia.

Drawing on the strength of those linkages we can continue to build our relationship and ensure it is underpinned by shared democratic values, mutual respect and trust.

Maldives and Australia can work together to address emerging global and regional issues. Climate change is a significant global challenge, and Maldives is one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Like Maldives, Australia also faces threats from coastal erosion and ocean warming, including coral reef bleaching which risks harming our unique marine fauna and flora. Australia’s Climate Change Ambassador recently visited Malé to learn more about the challenges and how Maldives is responding, and explore opportunities to work together on solutions, including in international forums.

In addition, major economic and strategic trends are shaping the region. Great power competition is rapidly altering the dynamics of the Indian Ocean. There has never been a more important time for Australia to work closely with our neighbours in the Indian Ocean to address these challenges. After all, it is our region, and we can determine its character, together.

Australia’s approach is to be an engaged and reliable partner in an open, stable and prosperous region where sovereignty is respected. A region that operates by agreed rules, standards and international law. Earlier this year, Australia hosted the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth – Australia’s gateway to the Indian Ocean – to discuss the kind of region we want to live in.

I look forward to strengthening Australia’s relationship with Maldives to progress our mutual interests, and deepening the bonds of friendship between our countries.

Share this story