Honourable Penny Wong, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Members of the Australian government delegation
Mr. Tevita Tuiloa, Interim CEO Fiji Rugby Union
Members of the Press and Media
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am pleased to share this space with Hon. Penelope Wong to launch the Fiji Rugby 2023 Women’s Campaign at the margins of this Special Pacific Forum Leaders’ Meeting.
As you know, the theme of this week’s Special Leaders’ Meeting is “Reflection, Renewal and Celebration”. To this end, we have much to reflect, to celebrate and renew in our gathering this afternoon.
The Pacific Islands Forum has accomplished a great deal over the years, playing a vital role in promoting regional cooperation and integration, addressing common challenges, and improving the lives of people in the Pacific region.
On reflection, and in keeping with this meeting theme, I recall the enormous strides Fiji Rugby has made since its establishment in 1913. Today I am proud to celebrate the notable achievement of Fiji Rugby’s remarkable treasure trove of; two (2) Olympic Gold Medals, 1 Bronze Medal, 1 Quarter Cup Final at the Rugby World Cup, IRB 7s Series Champions and 1 Super W win.
I also acknowledge the acomplishments of our Women’s Rugby teams, that have against all odds made a series of exceptional accomplishments in the last few years, since its relaunch in 2017 by winning the Super W in its maiden season, Olympic bronze medal in 2021 and a silver in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The magnitude of our women’s achievements has demonstrated to everyone in Fiji and the world that Fiji’s national sport, truly belongs to everyone! This is incredibly important because as we all are aware, sport can contribute to improving health and education, creating employment, stimulating economic development and realizing human rights and gender equality. These are values we all hold dear and whose efforts we must all support.
Everyone present here today understands this and therefore, I’d like to acknowledge the incomparable support of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the people of Australia.
Today’s gathering underscores the importance of our Vuvale partnership and while we are bound together by geography, it is sport that brings our people together. This is evident in the immeasurable impacts that the PacificAus Sports is making in ensuring that Pacific and Australian athletes are not only training and playing together at the highest levels but also forging dizzying heights of excellence and friendship.
I am reminded of a significant event in 1952 when Fiji Rugby rose to accept the invitation of the Australian Rugby Union to tour Australia as part of a fundraising event to assist the Australian Union. I am reliably informed Fiji stepped in after other international unions were incapable of accepting the invitation, and most remarkable is that the tour was a resounding success for both our Unions. Therefore, I am humbled by the presence of Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong whose presence here today speaks to the value of this significant partnership. Vinaka vakalevu, Minister.
The Government of Fiji is committed to seeing this partnership grow not only as an enabler for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but more importantly and as Mandela said in 2000: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where there was only despair.”
Therefore, we must all continue the momentum of the kind of support that has made today possible and I’d like to acknowledge our local businesses who have stood in the gap for our women:
As we look forward and prepare for the enormous decade of sports and rugby ahead of us, we know that there is significant opportunity to progress together as one Pacific Vuvale and the Fiji Rugby Union is keen to partner with Rugby Australia and PacificAus Sports in upcoming tournaments and competitions culminating in the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
In commemorating the journey, let us continue to reflect on the lessons and achievements we have experienced together as Vuvale. Let us also make the time to renew our commitment to our Pacific Vuvale. Let us recognize that our unique cultures and traditions are what binds us, and today we come together to mark and celebrate together that which unites us and makes us strong!
Vinaka Vakalevu & Thank you very much!