Alumni celebrates strong Solomon Islands-Australia links

From left to right: Janice Ashwin Solomon Islands Australia Alumni Association (SIAAA) Secretary; Elizabeth Belapitu, SIAAA Alumni, Dr Lachlan Strahan, Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands; Hon.Lanelle Tanagada, Minister of Education & Human Development Resources, Dr John Fasi, SIAAA President and Louise Jennion, Team Leader, Australia Awards Solomon Islands
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At its 2021 annual Gala Dinner on Saturday, the Solomon Islands Australia Alumni Association (SIAAA) celebrated the achievements of its members and the strong relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia.  The Gala Dinner brought members together under the theme ‘Linkages’, to network and share experiences.  The Minister for Education and Human Resources Development, Lanelle Tanangada, and the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Dr Lachlan Strahan were guests of honour at the event.

SIAAA membership comprises alumni from Australian tertiary institutions and from Australia Awards scholarships in Australia or the region.

SIAAA President Dr John Fasi said the event provided an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Australia Global Alumni in their home country, across the Indo-Pacific region, and for some on a global scale.

In her opening remarks at the Gala Dinner, Tanangada said, “The Solomon Islands is fortunate to have such an enduring partnership with Australia…whose government both values and supports the importance of education in our country and across the Indo-Pacific region.

“We are so fortunate to have so many Australia alumni, many of whom have gone on to become leaders in government, the private sector, academia and their communities.

“I would like to acknowledge the important and ongoing work of the Solomon Islands Australia Alumni Association (SIAAA) committee, organizing committee and its entire membership of around 400 people. This body provides further links between scholars and our countries.”

In his remarks, the Australian High Commissioner, Mr Strahan said, “Australia Awards is fundamental to meeting the needs of Solomon Islands’ economy and providing sufficient skills for economic growth.

“For this reason, the Australia Awards scholarships program has long been a key component of Australia’s development assistance to Solomon Islands.  It is also about building warm and friendly people-to-people links between Australia and Solomon Islands, as one of our closet neighbours.”

Guest speaker, Australia Awards alumni Dr Transform Aqorau stressed the importance of the responsibility that comes with the privilege of attaining an Australian tertiary education and encouraged the alumni in attendance to build their linkages in-country and with Australia for mutually beneficial development outcomes.

Mr Aqorau completed a PhD in International Fisheries Law and Management at the University of Wollongong in 1997, was recently awarded the 2021 Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to national and regional development and the diplomatic service.

Guest speaker Elizabeth Belapitu, Senior Mines Inspector in the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Development, said that her Australia Awards scholarship to study a Bachelor of Engineering (Mining) with Honours at Curtin University (Western Australia) and her subsequent experience as a woman in a male-dominated sector helped her to understand the importance of empowering women and young girls undertake studies in the field of statistics, technology, engineering and mathematics to make difference in Solomon Islands development.