Cyclone-Winston-How-To-Help-Fiji FT0225_001_443131002.indd

Cyclone Winston has impacted over 40% of Fiji’s population. The category 5 tropical cyclone, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall, hit Fiji on February 20th. Forty-three people died with total damages estimated at about FJ$1 billion. Entire communities have been destroyed with over 40,000 people needing immediate assistance. We’ve been asked how to best help the relief efforts in Fiji if you’re living overseas, after a few days of talking to people and looking at the options available we wanted to share some relief efforts that might be of interest to you and also share how we’re contributing.

Three Ways to Contribute to the Cyclone Winston Relief Efforts in Fiji 

Red Cross: Red Cross Fiji were one of the first organisations to mobilise and get aid to remote communities. Consider donating through your country’s Red Cross. Red Cross New Zealand | Red Cross Australia |

Save the Children: Much like Red Cross, your local Save the Children organisation would be good choice to donate to. Schools around the country have been badly damaged with many students having to find alternative schools. Getting children back into school is a priority for many communities.

Fiji Women’s Rights Movement: The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) put out statistics that identify 5,600 pregnant women who have been affected by Cyclone Winston, with 600 deliveries per month. The needs of these women will be significantly different to others. The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement have started an appeal to collect and distribute Dignity Packs which contain basic hygiene items (diapers, sanitary pads and toiletries). Details about how you can donate can be found on the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Facebook page.

How We’re Contributing 

As we have direct relationships and connections to the country and communities that have been affected, we’ve decided to work with our existing networks. It’s also an approach we recommend if you already have established ties in the country. Everyone has a story of loss and devastation but because our resources are limited we’re committed to contributing to the philanthropy projects we’ve supported all along. This includes the Children’s Reading Room in Levuka (we haven’t had any contact with them as yet) and Saint John’s College Cawaci on Ovalau which has been closed. We’re waiting for the groups we’re linked to, to let us know what they need and how best to help. This has been the general response to our immediate question of ‘how can we help you?’

As well as working with our existing networks, we’re also inclined to contribute in cash rather than kind. This is largely due to the realities of living overseas and the shipping cost and duties (well intentioned shipments of clothing and the like are often slapped with heavy duties in Fiji, and it’s often impossible to know what the duties will be until the shipments arrive in the country). Contributing in cash to established organizations like the Red Cross and Save the Children also ensures a greater degree of transparency.

If you have any questions or want to share additional information please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Pacific Regional Security Symposium

The regional symposium on Re-thinking regional security: Research and policy nexus is being held from 25-26 November 2015 at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. The symposium is a collaborative project between the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies (University of Canterbury), State Society and Governance in Melanesia (Australian National University), UNDP Pacific Centre and the International Political Science Association (Asia-Pacific Research Committee).

Patrick will be presenting his work on ‘Youth Participation and Security in Fiji':

The participation of young people is often at the heart of security debates; to address the view that they exist as either anarchists or victims.  In Fiji, this view often dominates the discourse on young people.  For example the youth bulge discussions frame young people as a ‘ticking time bomb’ whilst a youth development perspective views them as human becomings and as a result victims of an adult dominated world.  In the lead up to the 2013 General elections young people were propelled into the limelight.  Much of this transpired after the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 years.  It was estimated that 41 percent of the electorate were between the ages of 18 and 35 years and that they would influence the balance of power at the elections.  The impact of the youth vote on election outcomes is unknown, however, it is fair to assume that a significant number of young voters voted for the current government.  Since the elections the hype around young people’s participation has waned.  In a country like Fiji constantly beset by leadership crisis, the role of young people needs to be part of everyday decision making conversations.  This presentation proposes ways these may happen at different levels; government, political parties, civil society organizations and youth-led groups.

More information on the symposium can be found here

PrintThe 2nd Childhood Studies Colloquium is being co-hosted by the University of Otago ‘Children and Young People as Social Actors’ Research Cluster, the Children’s Issues Centre and the organisers of the 1st Colloquium. The 2015 theme is: What does Childhood Studies Mean For Research, Policy and Practice?

Vanisha will be presenting her work on ‘The Reality of Child Spaces in Fiji and Consequences for Research':

This presentation draws on the experience of establishing and maintaining a children’s reading space on the island of Ovalau, the first of its kind in Fiji. The reading space provides a ‘third’ space for children. It offers a neutral environment independent of the home and the school, the two main spaces, where Fijian children live their childhoods. These traditional spaces, popular sites for child-based research are often open to heavy adult supervision and scrutiny. The example of the reading space makes the case for investing in alternative, independent spaces for children that go beyond practical or developmental reasons but contribute to inclusive and child-friendly research practice. In the developing countries of the Pacific spaces like this offer an alternative to how and where children can engage and be engaged.

2nd Aotearoa New Zealand Childhood Studies Colloquium | Tuesday 20 October – Wednesday 21 October 2015 | 9-5pm | Dunedin | More details and registration available here


photo by Masha Zaric Photography

“I’m a strong advocate of insider research which basically means we research our own. I believe this allows for a more genuine research processes and outcomes. There’s a greater sense of accountability on the part of the researchers to the community to actually feedback outcomes and reports. In places like Fiji and the rest of the Pacific, communities are constantly being used to collect data but very little information, if any, ever makes its way back to these communities. I’m all about processes and using local talent but we seem to not value local academics and consultants as highly as we do expatriates…”

Vanisha was featured in an interview by Arieta Tora of Talanoa, an online space that provides direction for dreamers. The Talanoa philosophy and the philosophy of Making Connections (Fiji) was such a great fit that we have enjoyed talking to each other and exploring possible projects and collaborations. It’s always inspiring to connect with people who while dreaming out of this world dreams are also committed to doing the work. In this interview Vanisha talks about ethnicity and race relations and the work she does outside of Making Connections. You can read the full interview here.

Patrick will be presenting his paper on young political aspirants in the Fiji 2014 elections at the University of the South Pacific under the School of Government, Development and International Affairs (SGDIA), Faculty of Business and Economics (FBE) lunchtime seminar series. We hope you can make it.

Young Political Aspirants in the Fiji 2014 elections: motivations and experiences

Dr. Patrick Vakaoti Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work, University of Otago, New Zealand

Abstract: The 2014 Fiji elections held under the 2013 Constitution had many features that differed from previous elections.  One feature was the reduction of the voting age to 18 years.  This amongst other factors propelled young people into the political limelight both as voters and candidates.  This seminar will discuss the results of conversations with seven young political aspirants in the 2014 elections.  It uses Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, fields and capital to understand the young aspirant’s political motivations and experiences. The seminar will conclude by posing some questions with implications for future aspiring young politicians and in general young people’s participation in Fiji’s political and democratic processes.

Presenter: Dr. Patrick Vakaoti teaches in the Social Work programme of the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work at the University of Otago.  He has research interests in Pacific youth and community development issues. His other interests include child protection and indigenous community development. Patrick’s work extends to consultancy research where he has worked with organisations like UNICEF Pacific, Pacific Leadership Programme (AusAID) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. He is currently working on two research projects related to young people’s political participation in Fiji.

Thursday, June 4th 2015

12:30-1:30pm - CDS Seminar Room (S103)

1st Floor, Faculty of Business and Economics Building

All welcome

For enquiries please contact Andreea Torre on