Friday, January 28, 2011

Congratulations Matt Anderson

A looooong time ago ( it seems) Mr Joe Keil approached the Australian High Commissioner, His Excellency Matt Anderson, about the Samoa Tsunami book project. Joe thought maybe, just maybe, Australia would be able to 'give us a small donation to assist with the printing, possibly a couple of thousand if they could spare it...' And so i met Mr Matt Anderson for the first time. I gave him a copy of the first ROUGH draft of the book ( filled with shocking errors and rambly sentences that defied all structure) Mr Anderson read it. He took it home and gave it to his wife Lou - and she read it. And they were able to see past the errors and the drivel. They believed in the project. They supported it. And a few weeks later, AUSAID very generously agreed to pay for the printing cost of 5,000 copies. I was fortunate enough to work together with Matt and Lou as the book went to editing and then to print and then to launch - and have been so impressed with their comittment to working on projects that really serve needs in the Samoan community. From Surf Lifesaving on our beaches to new drinking water fountains in our rural schools and sooooo much more - they have brought an unparalled enthusiasm, sincerity and far-reaching vision to their diplomatic mission. I was thrilled to read that Matt's work was recognized with an Australian Public Service Medal. Congratulations Matt and Lou - you will both be greatly missed in Samoa.

Australia’s High Commissioner, Matthew John Anderson has been honoured by that country’s Governor General for his work in Samoa.Yesterday, His Excellency Anderson was awarded a Public Service Medal in the Australia Day Honours list. The medal’s citation reads: “For outstanding public service in leading the Australian Government's consular and humanitarian response to the September 2009 tsunami in Samoa.”

The Honours list provides national and formal recognition for many Australians who have made a significant difference to their communities. Mr Anderson, who is leaving Samoa at the end of the month, was not immediately available for a comment yesterday. But he is immensely proud of Australia’s effort to help Samoa after the devastating tsunami of 2009 during which 143 people were killed.

In the Canberra Times yesterday, Mr Anderson said he was deeply humbled. He praised his staff at the Australian High Commission in Samoa and all Australians who helped.
Mr Anderson said his time in Samoa has “been the most professional and personally rewarding experience of my time in government.

“The four years here have been extraordinary due in large part to the generosity of the Samoan people and the expanding bilateral relationship. I wouldn't have wished to be anywhere else in the world for the past four years,” he told Radio Australia.
He remembers the tsunami as if it was yesterday.

“Well I'm a father of three young kids, so at that stage my youngest was two and as you can imagine at quarter to seven in the morning we were up, well and truly up, and I was actually getting him changed in the bedroom when the tremors started,” he said.“So we felt the tremors and my son told me that he thought that someone was in his cupboard. So once his cupboard doors were shaken off their hinges and we scooped up the other kids and stood out on the road for a little while just listening to things crash inside the house.

“And then when it stopped we came inside and I rang my staff in the other compound to do a head count and make sure everyone was ok, and then we swung into action.
“My emergency team met at post at 7:30 in the morning, and the first Australians were delivered to the hospital by 8 o'clock because the tsunami struck at about ten past seven.

“We were in the hospitals, I had my staff in hospitals by 8 o'clock. Apia was off limits because of the concerns for another tsunami or a follow-up, so we couldn't actually get down to the High Commission on Beach Road.And once they lifted the cordon, I came into work, opened up the building and by 11 o'clock we had negotiated the formal request for assistance from the Samoan government by midday.

“And we wacked that off to Canberra so they had that before they first met for their first disaster meeting in Canberra. And then we just proceeded to support those Australians that we knew or in hospitals or that were in harms way, and certainly by that stage we already knew that Marie had passed away, so we had our first fatality, had 10 or 12 Australians in hospitals at that stage.

“But on our lists we estimate that on any given day there's about 300 Australians that are holidaying in Samoa and so we had to find them. And that was the real challenge, just trying to find out how many of those were on the south coast when we had lost all communication with the south coast, and how many of them might have been to the hospitals, how many of them might have been completely unharmed and just get the post very, very busy to them, support the wonderful Australians who jumped on planes, the doctors, the surgeons, the anaesthetists, the nurses, the paramedics, the police who then came in and within 24 hours that were here providing lifesaving support.

“So there was the immediate consular aspect of just look trying to establish that my own staff were well and their whereabouts, then the consular aspect, then functioning as a mission, because my job there's nothing terribly sophisticated about what I had to do in those days, it was just trying to keep the mission running, keep my staff safe and motivated and provide direction to those who deployed to assist.

“And the one thing I will tell your listeners Geraldine is that the Australians who came out here that day and the days and the weeks that followed were the best. There's no shinier example of what's good about Australia than watching a Hercules arrive and the people that get off and just roll up their sleeves and say let's go. And I've never been more proud to be an Australian than I was in those days and weeks.” (Read the full interview in the Sunday Reading on Sunday).

Mr Anderson has been Australia's High Commissioner to Samoa since January 2007. His four-year term comes to a close at the end of the month when he returns to Canberra.

Before his Samoan appointment, he was Spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He had served overseas as Counsellor in Port Moresby from 2003 to 2005; Chief Negotiator, Peace Monitoring Group, Bougainville in 2001 and 2002; and Third/Second Secretary in Cape Town from 1997 to 2000.In Canberra, Mr Anderson worked in a range of bilateral and multilateral areas.He joined the Department in 1995 after serving as a commissioned officer in the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Anderson holds a Masters Degree from Monash University, an Arts Degree from Deakin University and is a Graduate of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Married to Lou, they have three beautiful children, Meg, Kate and Harry.They were farewelled during a gathering at Sails Restaurant last night.
From the Samoa Observer, 27 January , 2011


Goddess said...

I like that he has been recognised by Australia, but I think he should be recognised by Samoa too!!! (but i suppose the powers that be are too busy buying votes)...Matt has been an awesome ambassador for OZ and i hope his replacement is aware that he has big seevae tosotosos to fill!

SALAVERT said...

Matt has a human quality few other public servants will ever achieve. He deserves this honour so much. Matt and Lou's contribution has been awesome; they are wonderful persons, and I'm sure Samoans will miss them terribly.