AfREC and Community Partners meet with Australian High Commissioner-designate to Mauritius

On 9 July 2020, AfREC members and community partners met for pre-posting consultations with the Australian High Commissioner-designate to Mauritius, Dr Kate O’Shaughnessy, at the University of Western Australia, Perth. The post in Port Louis is also accredited to Comoros, Seychelles and Madagascar.

AfREC participants included Dr David Mickler (Director), Dr Dominic Dagbanja (Associate Director, Community Engagement), Prof. Mark Jessell (Associate Director, Industry Engagement), Dr Muhammad Dan Suleiman (Community Coordinator) and Fellows Prof. Erika Techera (also the Australian National Focal Point on the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group, IORAG), Prof. Wallace Cowling (representing the Institute of Agriculture) and A/Prof. Farida Fozdar (Coordinator, UWA Migration, Mobilities and Belongings Research Cluster). Ms Amèlia Allaghan, a UWA student from Mauritius, also attended and represented the UWA African Students’ Union.

In line with AfREC’s community engagement practice when convening meetings with Australian Heads of Mission posted in Africa, AfREC was delighted to be joined in the meeting by Mr Ramen Poonen, President, Perth Mauritian Cultural Association, and Dr Francis Fornah, representing the Organisation of African Communities in Western Australia.

AfREC was particularly pleased at the appointment of Dr O’Shaughnessy due to her being an alumna of the University of Western Australia. She had also recently served as the Deputy Director of the WA State Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The roundtable meeting canvassed a range of issues important to Mauritius, Africa, the Indian Ocean and Mauritius-Australia relations, including blue economy, agriculture, research and education collaboration, and engaging and supporting the Mauritian diaspora in Australia, particularly in the context of the challenges posed by COVID-19.

It was noted that UWA has an MoU with the University of Mauritius and that both are members of the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN). The University of Mauritius hosted the annual AAUN Africa Forum for the first time in 2019 while UWA has hosted the AAUN Australia Forum annually since 2016. UWA also convenes a collaborative Master’s short course on International Relations in the Indian Ocean Region which includes staff and students from the University of Mauritius.

AfREC members Dr Mickler and Prof. Techera met with outgoing Australian High Commissioner Jenny Dee at the High Commission in Port Louis and separately with the leadership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in July 2019. AfREC had earlier participated in a consultation meeting with High Commissioner Dee at UWA in April 2019.

Australian Foreign Minister Senator the Hon Marise Payne officially announced Dr O’Shaughnessy’s posting on 4 September 2020, stating:

Today I announce the appointment of Dr Kate O’Shaughnessy as Australia’s new High Commissioner to Mauritius. Dr O’Shaughnessy will also be accredited to Comoros, Madagascar and Seychelles.

Australia and Mauritius enjoy strong historic links, with this year marking 50 years of diplomatic relations. Australia is home to the largest Mauritian diaspora, numbering more than 30,000 people. We have increasing partnerships and trade in education, blue economy and agribusiness.

Australia also has important links with Seychelles in marine research and resource management, and with Madagascar, particularly in mining and sustainable development.

All four countries are members of the Indian Ocean Commission and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, regional organisations that are important to Australia’s interests. We have a shared agenda to promote maritime security, women’s economic empowerment, and blue economy initiatives in the Indian Ocean region.

Dr O’Shaughnessy is a career officer with DFAT and was most recently Deputy Director, Western Australia State Office. She has previously served overseas in Ghana.

Dr O’Shaughnessy holds a PhD and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Western Australia.

I thank previous High Commissioner Jenny Dee for her contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Mauritius since 2017.”

As Mauritius and the other countries of accreditation intersect Africa and the Indian Ocean, following the meeting with AfREC Dr O’Shaughnessy met with the UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Partnerships) and members of the UWA Oceans Institute.

AfREC wishes High Commissioner-designate Dr O’Shaughnessy all the best with this important posting and looks forward to continuing engagement with the High Commission in Port Louis on research and education opportunities and other issues of mutual interest.

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