Opening the redeveloped Blackrock Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Camp, Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator Zed Seselja said the facility spells new grounds in the countries’ shared commitment to ensuring a peaceful and open world.
The camp they said not only honors Fiji’s peacekeeping legacy, spanning more than four decades, but will also help strengthen the country’s future peacekeeping capabilities for the future, allow it to share its peacekeeping expertise across the region, and support its humanitarian relief efforts in-country and across the region.
The opening of the renovated facility comes after 33 months of construction work, costing around $FJD100million and employed more than 1000 locals.
Thanking the Australian Government, Bainimarama said the facility is a world-class hub for Fiji’s security partnerships.
“Our Governments have embarked on this journey together because we recognize the need for cooperation to confront this century’s challenges. There will be more human conflicts in the years ahead that will require our joint action,” Bainimarama said.
The most recent undertaking between the two countries’ defense forces is the deployment of 43 RFMF personnel to work alongside 5,000 members of the Australian Defence Force in Australia’s Operation Flood Assist 2022, an outreach that 45 Fijian abattoir workers who saved aged care residents in Lismore were part of, a gesture that Seselja says reflects the selfless heroism of the values the two countries share.
The latest deployment builds on Fiji’s support to Australia’s bushfire recovery in 2019-2020, and across the region, the most recent in the Solomon Islands, working alongside those from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand to restore law and order and support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and the disaster relief in Tonga following a devastating earthquake and tsunami that caused much damage in the island country.
Bainimarama and Seselja also spoke about the importance of such partnerships amidst threats to regional and global security and peace on the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reiterating their positions in response to the crisis, calling for an end to the conflict and a return to diplomacy.
“In our own region, coercion, disinformation, and foreign interference are on the rise. None of us here today wish to see the regional order undermined or destabilized. This is why Australia is working with Fiji and other Pacific partners to build sovereign resilience and support the rule of law in our region,” Seselja said.
Through collaboration on humanitarian responses. Through coordination on international diplomacy and protection of human rights. And through military-to-military cooperation, such as the facility we are launching today. I want this facility to stand as a symbol of the values we share. Values such as transparency, respect, and freedom. These complement the ADF’s long-held values of Courage, Endurance, Mateship, and Sacrifice. These are values we have seen rise to the surface in Fiji’s support of Australia.
“Our shared values are vital to protecting the international rules-based order, under which our nations enjoy the sovereignty to choose our own paths. “
Locally, Bainimarama said the camp will ensure Fiji is better prepared to contend with the complexity of cyber warfare, the ferocity of traditional conflict, and the worsening wrath of nature.
“We cannot predict what future disasters await us –– but we know they will come. And through the training you gain at Blackrock, we know that Fiji will be ready,” Bainimarama said.
“Blackrock will ensure that our troops are equipped and trained to respond to the multi-faceted threats produced by the most alarming war we have ever faced –– the climate war that is at our shores and that will only intensify in this century.
“The climate war will not be won with guns, ammo, and artillery. It will be won with seawalls, resilient infrastructure, and cutting-edge technology. It will be won with knowledge –– knowledge of building practices, disaster management, and mitigative measures we can take to cushion the blow of storms and other severe weather.
“It will be won through facilities such as Blackrock where we will elevate training, preparedness, and response capabilities for both traditional conflict and humanitarian disasters to a world-leading level.
“Runaway climate change will inflict more famines and droughts across the world that make societies and regions less stable and more prone to violent conflict. Through the training they receive at this world-class facility, our brave women and men will be ready to address these rapidly evolving threats to security.”
The renovation included new fencing, a headquarters building, front entrance and guard house, a logistics precinct (including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief warehouse), lecture/classroom facilities, sports field, medical facility, living-in accommodation, physical training facilities, and a parade ground.