Today strong trading and other relationships exist between the two countries
Australian High Commissioner HE Tegan Brink welcomed guests to the Australia Day reception on the 26 January 2024 at the Residence. Visitors joined in the celebration of multicultural Australia and savouring of the gourmet street food that showcases the waves of migration experienced by the country.
Brink thanked Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi, who delivered a statement on behalf of the South African government. Special thanks was also extended to the Diplomatic Corp as well as guests and friends of Australia.
Australia Day has different meanings for different people in the country. It’s one day with different stories and a democratic country with a strong culture of open and free debate. It is an ancient land and a modern country, which is on a journey of reconciliation with First Nations Australians.
Entering the reception guests passed images of the Yuendumu doors. These doors were painted by Aboriginal elders to facilitate the journey and a connection between cultures. That context is important in Australia and also has resonance in South Africa.
Australia and South Africa share many things, with sports being the top of the list as well as braais and the bush, but the relationship is so much bigger than that . Both countries have enormous rocks as national heritage sites: Australia has Uluru in the centre of Australia and South Africa has Table Mountain.
Today the strong relationship between Australia and South Africa is marked by high levels of mining expertise and investment including in the critical minerals that are necessary to electrify the two countries and the world as well as mind-blowing science collaborations which include astronomy and origins of the universe.
In a parallel universe in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi the relationship of Australia includes active multilateral diplomacy. As mineral power democracies, they can best achieve what they want through cooperation and engagement, understanding and hard work within the framework of agreed rules.
In a tumultuous global context, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said: “We need to do better at finding and valuing our common humanity, and as diplomats we need to have the courage to put people, their security and their aspirations at the centre of our policy analysis and our paths to peace.”
Bilateral relations with Australia have improved over the years since South Africa became a democracy in 1994. South Africa and Australia relations are managed through the Senior Officials Meetings (SOM), a structured bilateral mechanism through which the two countries review the status of bilateral cooperation and the implementation of the existing projects. The last successful meeting was held in South Africa in March 2023.
The government of South Africa remains firmly committed to cooperating with the government of Australia in strengthening both the political and economical relations between the two nations. Both countries enjoy sound bilateral relations in many areas, especially in the field of trade and industry, science and technology, minerals and energy, police, service exchanges and sporting ties.
Australia is South Africa’s 23rd largest trading partner, while South Africa is a top 30 trading country for Australia and the largest and most dynamic market in Africa. Australia is the 7th largest foreign investor in South Africa. In December 2022 , Australia’s assisted Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts visited South Africa, which showed the intent of the Australian government to reinvigorate ties with Africa.
South Africa is pleased with the establishment of the Australia – Africa business forum and hopes that the initiative will receive Australian interest in Africa to explore opportunities, expand existing collaborations and promote foreign direct investment.
In closing Minister Nxesi reiterated that Australia has the unwavering support and friendship of South Africa.