On 20 October 2022, Minister for Defence, National Security, and Policing and Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development, and National Disaster Management Inia Seruiratu and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Defence Richard Marles MP signed a Status of Forces Agreement between Fiji and Australia.
Both Ministers agreed the reciprocal SOFA marks an important milestone in the defence relationship. Each affirmed the two countries’ commitment to cooperate together. The agreement covers practical issues including immigration and customs; arrangements for visiting forces to wear uniforms while in the other country; and criminal and civil jurisdiction over visiting forces while in the other country. Once in force, the agreement will provide a more comprehensive legal framework for the presence of one country’s forces in the other. It is reciprocal in nature, with the same obligations being assumed by both parties.
The ministers spoke of how the signing of the agreement reflects the maturity of the defence partnership, allowing the two countries to continue their history of helping each other in times of crises.
Marles said “I am honoured to have signed the Status of Forces Agreement, which underlines the reciprocal nature and closeness of our partnership with Fiji. We share an interest in a peaceful, secure and resilient Pacific and need to work together to effectively respond to common security challenges – both traditional and non-traditional. Australia and Fiji know we can rely on each other at times of need. This was demonstrated by the deployment of Bula Force to Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST and FLOOD ASSIST, and the deployment of the Australian Defence Force to Operation FIJI ASSIST. The Status of Forces Agreement will make it easier to deploy to each other’s territories at times of need.”
Seruiratu said “The Vuvale Partnership exemplifies the strong family bonds felt between Fiji and Australia. The signing of this Agreement marks a new height of security cooperation between our two nations. Our security forces train and deploy together in our homes and across the region. This Agreement reflects the increased cooperation between our forces to address traditional and non-traditional security threats including climate change, humanitarian crises and disasters. Fiji and Australia’s security cooperation forms the bedrock of our Vuvale Partnership and helps maintain regional stability, resilience, and peace.”