The Hon Julie Bishop with children and parents at Buk bilong Pikinini, University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea. Photo: DFAT.

The Hon Julie Bishop



There is much to celebrate about Pacific women’s achievements in the last year. Dr Hilda Heine was elected as President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the first female leader of any independent Pacific island nation. Another first was the appointment of Samoa’s first female Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

Pacific women are breaking through barriers to achieve their dreams and to demonstrate what women can achieve. Women are active in law, business and finance, agriculture and fisheries, media, science, the arts, engineering, academia, and social and community services.

Australia is providing practical and immediate support to women and girls in the Pacific. In March this year I travelled to Fiji, just weeks after it was devastated by tropical cyclone Winston. Tropical cyclone Winston wreaked havoc on more than half of Fiji’s population and its effects will continue to be felt for years to come. People lost their homes, their crops, their property, and most sadly, some lost their lives. I met many women and heard their stories with the common themes of resilience, determination, courage and hope. I visited the Rakiraki Market which had housed more than 200 vendors, 76 percent of whom were women, selling their produce every day to support their families. At that time there was only shelter for a quarter of the vendors and many of the tables and chairs had been damaged or destroyed. The Markets for Change project, with funding from Australia and implemented by UN Women Pacific, provided tents, tables and chairs that enabled the market to operate while buildings were repaired or rebuilt.

Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) has just entered its fourth year of operation. Key pieces of new work in 2016 include programs working with communities and churches to prevent family violence, an increased focus on child protection, a regional meeting of Pacific parliamentarians on women’s economic empowerment, support for women’s groups and coalitions to promote progressive ideas and drive positive change, and new programs to increase women’s employment and business opportunities.

Pacific Women does not work in isolation. It complements Australia’s broader aid programs in the Pacific, including our investments to support private sector growth and human development, and Australia’s economic diplomacy engagement with Pacific governments.

I thank all of the partners working with us to achieve better outcomes for women, men, girls and boys across the Pacific. Together we have made progress but there is still a long way to go.