No country is in a position to contemplate single-handedly absorbing the entire displaced population of another, but the recent article about small low-lying island nations (“Law students try to prevent paradise lost,” March 1) seems to imply that Australia has abandoned Tuvalu to an uncertain fate, and that New Zealand has stepped into the breach. This is not true.
The government of Australia has had close and friendly relations with Tuvalu since 1978, when the Ellice Islands (as they were then known) obtained their independence from Great Britain. The countries are also linked economically: Australia is a major annual contributor to the Tuvalu Trust Fund, which was established in 1987 as a financial buffer against potentially damaging fluctuations in the islands’ relatively small national income; indeed, Australia is currently represented on its board. That fund is now worth approximately $68 million. In addition, each year Australia gives Tuvalu millions of dollars in development aid and assists in the islands’ defenses and the surveillance and protection of Tuvalu’s vulnerable fisheries. The Australian dollar circulates as legal tender on the islands, and in August 2009, the prime ministers of Australia and Tuvalu signed a new bilateral “Pacific Partnership for Development” agreement.
Though the gradually rising level of the Pacific Ocean threatens the very existence of Tuvalu, she and other vulnerable small island nations of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia may always rely upon the steadfast and practical support of the people of Australia.
The writer is a curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art.