Australian Defence Force (ADF) sporting associations joined forces with Vanuatu netball, rugby league, and touch football associations in a five-day virtual sporting program, highlighting the two countries’ mutual love of sport.

The virtual program was the fifth conducted in the Pacific by the ADF alongside National Rugby League, Netball Australia, and the Federation of International Touch under the Department of Foreign Affairs’ ‘Step Up’ and ‘Team Up’ initiatives.

It follows previous virtual camps conducted with Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, and, more recently, Samoa.

Director General ADF Sport Brigadier Phil Winter said sport connected people, cultures and countries.

“For Australia, sport can support diplomatic and international engagement, bringing together people, building communities, and breaking down biases and stereotypes through a united passion,” Brigadier Winter said.

The training was conducted out of the Holiday Inn Resort in Port Vila, with ADF physical training instructors participating virtually from Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns.

The program, rolled out across the Pacific, offered the opportunity to engage through facilitated training, as well as building capacity in officiating and supporting roles that are in high-demand throughout the region.

More than 600 coaches, referees, sports trainers, and strength and conditioning coaches have been accredited in the Pacific through the initiative.

“As a member of our Pacific family, we share deep personal and cultural ties with Vanuatu – and this is particularly evident when it comes to sport,” Brigadier Winter said.

“Accredited sports officials are critical to the development of sport from community through to elite sporting programs. That’s what these programs have provided – and they have been highly successful.”