Australian High Commissioner’s first official visit to SANMA province

Australian High Commissioner, Sarah de Zoeten, meets with Luganville market women vendors, beneficiaries of the Australia-Vanuatu partnership. (AHC)

Two weeks after being officially welcomed as Australia’s new High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Sarah de Zoeten visited SANMA province from Friday 7 to Saturday 8 February 2020.

“This year Australia and Vanuatu celebrate forty years of diplomatic relations, and as High Commissioner, I am committed to meeting ni-Vanuatu throughout the archipelago to learn more about Vanuatu’s rich and diverse culture and to strengthen our partnership,” said the Australian High Commissioner, Sarah de Zoeten.

SANMA Province Secretary General, Albert Ruddley, welcomed the Australian High Commissioner and outlined his priorities for the province.

A strong focus of the High Commissioner’s visit was to see first-hand Australia’s support to women. She visited the refurbished Luganville market house, funded by Australia with the UN Women’s Market for Change program, and met the market vendors who are working together to improve the management of the market. The High Commissioner was honoured to visit the Vanuatu Women’s Centre Sanma Counselling Centre that Australia has supported for over 25 years.

Ms de Zoeten was impressed by the entrepreneurship and weaving skills of the women who are members of the Sanma Headwear Association. They produce world-class hats that are being exported to Australia and New Zealand. The Australian-supported Vanuatu Skills Partnership works to give these women greater access to skills that lead to employment and develop the local private sector.

“I’m very proud of what Australia and Vanuatu are achieving together to support women to have better access to economic opportunities,” the Australian High Commissioner said.

She also toured the Northern Provincial Hospital and the VPF Northern Command to discuss the Australia-Vanuatu partnership in health and security.

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