Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has unveiled a number of social and investment projects for the Pacific, during a visit to Solomon Islands.
Among the projects, Ms Bishop says Australia will spend $15 million over the next five years to provide support to more than 250 businesses in the Pacific.
As well, there are specific programs for Solomon Islands - $5 million to help prevent domestic and family violence and $500,000 for major renovations for the Royal Solomon Islands Police.
Australia will dedicate $500,000 over two years to open up economic opportunities for Pacific women through a private sector development initiative.
Bishop told Radio Australia Pacific Beat that Australia's engagement in the Pacific is about making the region more self-sufficient.
“This is our neighbourhood. This is where we live,” she said.
“There is a significant history that exists between Australia Pacific islands particularly through World War Two. And geography binds us together. But there's also a deep affection between the Australian people and Pacific Islanders, including Solomon Islanders.”
Bishop is leading a bi-partisan delegation including the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Brett Mason, the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswomen Tanya Plibersek and her colleague Matt Thistlethwaite, as well as the new Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls Natasha Stott Despoja, on a three-day visit to Melanesia. The delegation will also visit Vanuatu and Nauru.
“This is an opportunity to visit other countries in the region who are significant recipients of Australian overseas assistance and also countries that are of specific interest in terms of Australia's security,” Bishop said.
Australia has recently cut its aid budget and announced a new focus for assistance but Bishop says Australia will remain the biggest aid donor for the Pacific.
“Our aid program will continue to support Australia's foreign and trade priorities which include a safe and secure and prosperous Pacific region,” she says.
“About 19-20 per cent of all Australia's official development assistance is provided for the Pacific so we will continue to be a major player in international development assistance in the Pacific region - it will remain an important area of focus for Australia.
“Our engagement in the Pacific is about making the Pacific islands more self sufficient, to transform the engagement with Australia from aid to donor, aid recipient to equal partnerships.
“(In Vanuatu) we will be focussing on PACER Plus which is a free-trade agreement that's being negotiated with Pacific islands, we will be discussing way we can enhance economic development in Vanuatu.
“I want to ensure the relationship with Australia is on a sound and firm footing.”