By Andrew Barnes
Australia Day, held annually on the 26th of January, marks the day in 1788 when the first fleet arrived at Sydney Cove, near where the iconic Sydney Opera House now stands. The arrival of 11 convict ships from Britain began the first permanent settlement of Europeans on Australian soil.
Today, Australia is a thriving, successful multicultural society that, like Ghana, has a reputation as a friendly, easy-going country.
Let me also use this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy, warm wishes and support for Australia and the people of Australia concerning the devastating bushfires.
The scale and ferocity of these fires has been unprecedented and have caused enormous destruction to our country’s wildlife habitat.
The Australia-Ghana partnership
I am proud to acknowledge that Australia was one of the first countries in the world to recognise the newly independent Ghana in 1957, and on 21 February 1958, we opened our High Commission in Accra. This became Australia’s first foreign mission in democratic sub-Saharan Africa.
Australia’s relationship with Ghana is therefore a long one, one based on many shared interests, including democracy, a commitment to peace and security, a belief in the importance of free trade and investment and deep people-to-people links. Today, more than 10,000 Ghanaians call Australia home.
Australia, like Ghana, has an impressive reputation as a nation committed to peace and security, and our soldiers and police have served together in many UN Peace Keeping Missions around the world, including in Cambodia, Lebanon and the Balkans, where they have developed a strong mutual respect for each other.
Australia Awards Scholarships
The Australian government recognises that education and training have a central role in Ghana’s development. By creating a skilled and socially engaged workforce to bring about positive change, higher education helps to improve the prospects for economic growth, social cohesion, democratic reform and good governance, all of which contribute to the elimination of poverty.
For these reasons, the Australia Awards scholarship program forms an integral part of our cooperation with Ghana. Through this development assistance programme, Australia is building valuable connections between our people, strengthening trust between our two nations and fostering an understanding of each other’s cultures, political systems and economies.
Since 2011, the Australian government has supported 415 Ghanaian professionals with scholarships to study in Australia through the Australia Awards program. This is a testament to the outstanding calibre of Ghanaian candidates, and underscores the high value that the Australian government places on its bilateral partnership with Ghana.
Sharing Australia’s mining experience
In the eyes of many, Australia and responsible mining are synonymous in West Africa. With Australian mining companies’ current and prospective investment across West Africa estimated at nearly 100 billion Cedis, this fruitful partnership will continue.
Over many decades, Australian mining companies have contributed significantly to the development of Ghana through the taxes and royalties they have paid and the people they have employed. Our companies pride themselves on the transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise to their Ghanaian workforce. This has been so successful that Ghanaians are now employed in key mining positions right across Africa and in other parts of the world.
The Australian Government is also proud to share its world-leading mining expertise with Ghana through a range of capacity building initiatives such as scholarships and study tours. Australia has also supported the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in its fight against illegal mining through several joint initiatives.
Direct Aid Program & charities
Reflecting the priority the Australian Government places on promoting human rights and inclusiveness, the High Commission was pleased to support the New Horizon Special School, in Accra with funds raised at our annual Melbourne Cup Charity Gala in November 2019.
The previous year, we were pleased to support the Pearl Safe Haven with funding for the construction of a safe house for victims of domestic violence in Accra. The shelter will be a small, but important part of efforts to help in this under-resourced area.
Since 2004, the Australian High Commission has worked with communities across Ghana to deliver over 200 projects bringing strong, tangible benefits to local communities.
In the Chuchuliga community in the Upper West region of Ghana, for example, we commissioned a 20-bed maternity ward. The project was funded through the Australian Government’s Direct Aid Program (DAP) and implemented through RISE Ghana, a local NGO working to improve human rights and ensure sustainable development in Ghana. Thanks to this project, in-patients are now receiving treatment in private cubicles, doctors and nurses now have comfortable offices, bathroom facilities are user friendly and the treatment room is now fully equipped.
The project is one of five health, water and sanitation and hygiene projects funded in the 2018/19 Direct Aid Program, (DAP).
In line with promoting inclusive development and addressing violence against women and girls. The High Commission in partnership with our Ghana Australia Alumni Association – G3A, refurbished the Greater Accra Regional Domestic Violence Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU). As part of the project, 75 DOVVSU coordinators and prosecutors from 14 Divisional Commands were given training to better address victim’s needs, and effectively investigate gender based violence cases.
This Australia Day, we reflect on the depth of our relationship with Ghana. It is an exciting time for Australia in Ghana. Despite being on the opposite sides of the world, we do enjoy warm and friendly relations.
The writer is the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana