08 April 2021
Next step in the step up: The ADF's role in building health security in Pacific Island states
The ADF has long had an important role in providing humanitarian assistance to Pacific island countries (PICs). The force has extraordinary capabilities—people, expertise, training and equipment—in delivering necessary assistance quickly and efficiently.
From Australia’s perspective, the ADF is one of our most important agencies in engaging with our PIC partners, particularly in helping them to develop capabilities to address a range of security challenges. In Australia’s new strategic environment, the ADF can also play an important role in helping to build regional health security as part of a new phase in Australia’s Pacific Step-up.
This paper argues that the Australian Government should consider a new role for the ADF in the Pacific through developing mutually beneficial enduring military health partnerships.3 That would involve the regular rotation of ADF health professionals through partner medical facilities where they would have the opportunity to gain unique frontline experience from local experts, while also sharing their own knowledge and skills. The mutuality of benefits inherent in such an arrangement means that they shouldn’t be considered as traditional humanitarian assistance.
An enhanced role for the ADF in regional health security, properly structured, might ultimately come to be seen alongside the Pacific Patrol Boat Program as a successful example of mutually beneficial partnerships between the ADF and our Pacific neighbours.