First visit to Australia's Cocos (Keeling) Islands - Thank you

My first visit to Australia’s most remote external territory, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) has showcased local residents’ commitment to advancing and protecting the Islands.

CKI truly has unique qualities which are a drawcard for your future economic growth.

I welcomed the opportunity to engage directly with you about local issues including sustainable tourism, infrastructure, protection from erosion and how we can continue to work together. Discussions with you during my visit have made me more aware of what matters to you.

I heard loudly and clearly the community’s need for further engagement on the proposed new fishing rules and I take your concerns very seriously.

I have asked the Administrator, Mrs Natasha Griggs, and Territories executive director Alex Foulds to lead an additional round of consultation on CKI by the end of this calendar year, where scientific data and maps will be presented, showing the evidence underpinning the proposed framework.

This will provide an opportunity to discuss the consultations undertaken to date and how that feedback has been reflected in the proposed new rules, along with addressing any other key issues which remain.

I am impressed by the local Shire of CKI’s innovative Cocos CV which showcases the capability of businesses, organisations and job seekers and represents community-led ideas for economic growth and businesses supporting businesses.

I met with representatives of CKI’s business and award-winning tourism sectors on West Island and acknowledge the potential emerging as you support each other for the best future possible for CKI.

Noting concerns about potential impacts on local business and tourism from the runway upgrade project, I have asked the IOT Regional Development Organisation (IOT RDO) to host a community roundtable and planning workshop. This forum will allow government, business and community to explore how we can best work together to maximise opportunities from the project.

I am also committed to working with the Defence Minister to maximise the opportunities for waste removal as part of the runway project.

The Women’s Networking Lunch on Home Island with Mrs Natasha Griggs, and CKI Shire President, Mrs Seriwati Iku, was a wonderful opportunity to emphasise the importance of mentoring and mutual support.

I was also honoured to be part of the citizenship ceremony when local restaurateur Roddy Philoe made the pledge to become CKI’s newest Australian. Originally from the Seychelles and now running the much loved Rasa Di Sayang Restaurant on Home Island, Mr Philoe represents not only the unique multicultural heritage of CKI and the IOT, but also the common bond we all share as Australian citizens from diverse backgrounds.

I also had the opportunity to view community infrastructure projects funded by the Australian Government through the IOT RDO and was pleased to see how the Shire and RDO are working together to deliver improvements to the liveability and attractiveness of CKI – for both the community and tourists alike.

I understand there has been a change to the ground handling arrangements at CKI airport that were previously managed through the Cocos Cooperative. This is a commercial decision by Virgin Australia.

Thank you for welcoming me to your beautiful Islands during my first visit as your Minister.