In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Bulletin at the office of the Australian High Commission at DAR Takaful IBB Utama building on Friday (Sept 12), McDonald said, “I feel very fortunate that I am taking on this role at a time where the bilateral relationship between both countries have grown from strength to strength.”
She said Australia “has a really strong trade relationship with Brunei Darussalam,” adding that she hoped to see more Australian products on the shelves of local supermarkets.
“I also know that during Covid-19, high quality food, meat and groceries from Australia, helped contribute to the food security in the country. This is a very important aspect of the relationship,” she said.
On education, McDonald said Covid-19 has impacted students travelling to Australia and vice versa.
“We have approximately 12,000 Australia alumni in Brunei. I am looking forward to engaging with them because they are really good advocates for the bilateral relationship,” the high commissioner said. She said next year will be important for Brunei Darussalam.
“In addition to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s 75th birthday celebration and the RBAF’s 60th anniversary, Brunei will be the chair of Asean.
“Asean is at the heart of Australia’s vision for indo pacific. The high commission will be working hard to support Brunei in any way that Brunei sees fit to have a successful Asean Chairmanship next year.”
McDonald, a career diplomat, has served in Seoul, London and Jakarta. In Canberra, she worked in the Agriculture and Non-Tariff Barriers Branch and as Head of Great Barrier Reef Taskforce. She can also converse “a bit” in Malay and is keen to continue to learn more of the language.
The newly appointed high commissioner presented the Letters of Credence to His Majesty on Thursday.
Recalling the occasion, she said, “It’s one of the days that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was really an honour to have been given the opportunity to not only meet His Majesty but also to present the Letter of Credence to His Majesty and to serve the Australian government and the Australians in Brunei. I feel it is an enormous honour. In London, I had the opportunity to meet Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and now I met His Majesty. I have met the two longest serving monarchs which is a rare privilege.”
Arriving in August, the high commissioner was in isolation for two weeks.
Sharing the isolation experience in Brunei, she pointed out that it is very similar to that in Australia.
McDonald added, “It’s an interesting experience and it was a nice opportunity to pause and reflect before I started my job as the Australian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam.”
After completing her isolation, McDonald visited a number of attractions in Brunei to get a firsthand feel of the local culture and the people. - Borneo Bulletin/Asian News Network
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