Marovo Lagoon, Friday - Jill and Grant Kelly have spent 25 years developing and then enhancing their small but exquisite resort on Uepi (you-pee) Island in the Western District of the Solomon Islands. Being in a remote part of the country, almost at the end of the line, they don’t make a lot of money but live a fine life catering to the requirements of scuba divers, expedition travellers and people who simply want to drop out for a while. And, after more than a quarter of a century, they feel a close connection to the natural environment and to the native people who live on the tiny coral islands arranged necklace-like around Marovo Lagoon.

On board Orion earlier today I watched [on the ABC’s excellent Australia TV Network] Alexander Downer fulminate against the governments of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. He also fulminated against the Australian Labor Party, which he accused of “supporting foreigners” as if this was a most heinous crime.

Ingrid_in_jungle_1 With Downer’s petulance still on my mind, I took the Zodiac to shore, where Ingrid and I walked into the centre of the island on a rough hewn track before returning to the resort for a refreshing local lager. There I talked with Jill and Grant Kelly about Solomons’ politics, asking them about the usefulness of Downer’s megaphone diplomacy in addressing the serious problems Australia finds in its immediate neighbourhood.

They were ambivalent: saying Downer’s remonstrations against the poor governance of these nations was understandable but that it wasn’t clear exactly how this would fix relationships that Australia  had allowed to deteriorate over many years.

Uepi_resort_card_1 Marovo Lagoon is an hour in a plane and another 30 minutes by speedboat from Honiara’s troubled politics and, while the Marovo people know and are concerned about what’s going on, it doesn’t affect them directly. But I couldn’t help contrast the human values realised by the Kelly’s in developing a mature and mutually fruitful relationship with the people of Marovo Lagoon and Australia’s failure to do likewise on the larger diplomatic canvass. It reflects poorly on the competence of Australia’s politicians that relations with our regional neighbours should be in such an unhappy and volatile state.

Photo: Ingrid on the Uepi track


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