The New Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, His Excellency Mr. William Robinson, marked his inaugural Australia Day reception with an unexpected display of cultural fluency, delighting guests with a greeting in flawless Samoan. The event, hosted at his Tiapapata residence on Wednesday evening, saw an esteemed assembly of Samoa's senior cabinet ministers and officials, along with members of the Council of Deputies, including Afioga Le Mamea Ropati Mualia.
The High Commissioner’s warm welcome in Samoan was received with enthusiastic applause, setting a tone of camaraderie and respect. His speech seamlessly transitioned into English, where he celebrated Australia's rich tapestry as a nation — from the enduring cultures of First Nations Australians to the diverse contributions of the Samoan diaspora in Australia. “There are nearly 100,000 Samoans in Australia, making significant contributions across various sectors," Mr. Robinson noted, expressing his hope that Australians in Samoa reciprocate with equally valuable contributions.
Mr. Robinson also emphasised the shared democratic values underpinning the Samoa Australia partnership, articulating both nations' commitment to peace, freedom, and the rule of law, including the rights to free speech, political expression, and religious freedom.
Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, Samoa's Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, addressed the gathering on behalf of Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and the Samoan Government. He reflected on Australia's journey, its achievements, and the flourishing of its multicultural populace. Minister Schuster spotlighted the warm Samoa-Australia relationship, mentioning high-level visits, the signing of the Bilateral Partnership Arrangement, and the flagship Tautua and Tautai Partnerships.
Further, he acknowledged Australia's backing of Samoa in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2024, notably through the Samoa Australia Police Partnership and the delivery of the Guardian Class Patrol Boat, Nafanua III.
While the annual Australia Day on January 26th is a day of celebration for many, it remains a complex date, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities who view it as 'Invasion Day' — the anniversary of European colonisation. This contention has spurred debates, with some advocating for a change of date or an end to the celebrations, while others argue that the day has evolved to acknowledge Australia's full history and its progression into a successful multicultural society.
As Australia reflects on its national identity and the interwoven stories of its people, events like the reception in Samoa signify the importance of recognising and respecting the diverse narratives that shape nations.