Friday, October 30, 2009

Walk on by

from w
Wednesday evening:It was 6 p.m. and I was running along Collins Street after alighting from a crowded tram. Peak period. I had eight minutes to catch the Geelong train at Southern Cross Station. At the corner of Spencer Street the red light stops us in mid-flight. I was in the midst of a sea of black, office workers finished for the day. I picked my way to the right for space. Below me a beggar with a mass of tangled black hair huddled against the shop-wall, a few coins in a scarf nearby. The woman was covered in a lightweight shawl and on the pavement were several pieces of art-work, like rangoli the Indian sand design, but these were on cardboard I think. I looked at her face, small, pinched, narrow, and she smiled straight at me. I looked again at the artwork – intricate, brightly coloured and she was making another one. What is her story, I wondered as I was reminded of a long-lost friend from Fiji that I cannot find in Melbourne though I have asked around. The response had always been that she had run away from her family, had a mental illness, but she was probably still somewhere around. The traffic lights changed to green and I plunged forward, still intent on catching the train. But I should have stayed, talked with her. As the train snaked across the land a Beatles song 'Penny Lane' was in my head and I was thinking - was this elderly Indian woman Sarita, my friend of the early days, an Indian girl who had been a lovely dancer in her teenage years. Probably not, but I felt uneasy that I had not stayed to ask, ‘What is your name?’

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bits of news from Fiji Sun

from w
Here are two items from today's Fiji Sun about life in Labasa - a school bazaar and one of the young women of Labasa.
Teraieta’s climb to success
By Many people move to major towns or islands for various reasons.
Mrs Teraieta Narayan left Rabi Island to further her education. “My parents moved to Labasa in 1997 because we had to further our education,” she said. Ms Narayan completed her Form Six at Rabi High school and applied for a receptionist course at the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Labasa.

Being the eldest of five siblings she said, it was quite difficult for her to adjust to her new environment. She had to work with other races and it was difficult for her to communicate with them.

“When I came to Labasa, I took up a receptionist course for two months with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. After that, I did an attachment with Social Welfare and later with the Women Crisis Centre.” At the age of 22, she met Jaitendra Narayan and they decided to get married. “We felt it was the right thing to do and we went ahead with it. But I managed to complete my education through my husband’s help. I thank my husband for his endless support. Without him, I would not have reached this far. He paid for my fees at the New Zealand Pacific Training Centre (NZPTC) in Labasa but I did not let him down when I completed the course.”

Today, Mrs Narayan operates a graphic design business in Labasa. “It is called Rainbow Graphic Designs and its here that I’ve used all the knowledge that I gained over the years,” she continued on. The mother of one child said, that education has brought her this far and she is always learning new things everyday. Mrs Narayan added that she felt it was necessary for her to get educated and use her talent to run a business.

“I opened a business to help provide employment to young people, develop more businesses in Labasa and provide professional qualified layout designs to customers,” she added.

Bazaar funds to help Labasa school
The annual Saint Mary bazaar started in Labasa yesterday. The four-day bazaar will have a beauty contest where 10 sponsored queens have been confirmed. Funds raised from the bazaar will be used to finance the school operation for next year. Saint Mary School, assistant Head Teacher Vincent Sahayam said they have some entertainment programmes planned for the bazaar. He said the bazaar would not have materialised, if it was not for the support of Mr Tula Jaduram of the Jaduram Industries

“I would like to thank Mr Jaduram. He has been supporting this bazaar since last year,” added Mr Sahayam.
and added later: St Mary bazaar successful

The management of Saint Mary Primary School in Labasa is $30,000 richer after their one week bazaar last week. A total of $30,544.45 was raised during the bazaar. School Treasurer, Mr Rayappa Ray, said history was created on Saturday.
"This is the biggest amount to be raised by the school. This is history for us," said Mr Ray. "We expected to raise $15,000 but it was doubled and it was beyond our expectation," added Mr Ray.

The school management decided that the house which raised the highest amount was crowned as Miss Charity. The Miss Charity and Miss Saint Mary 2009 was Helen Maya Jaduram from Megpie (Magpie?) House. Her house raised $6228.50. The first runner-up was Sara Du from Bulbul House and the second runner-up was Zubariah Mahik from Kiwi house.

Head Teacher, Vereniki Rusaqoli, was lost for words when told of the raised amount.
"I am overwhelmed," he only managed. "I thank thank the teachers, parents, students and everyone who contributed." Funds raised would be used in school projects to improve education for pupils of St Mary.

And another piece of news, not unexpected, is the appointment of a new President, not by the Council of Chiefs this time however.
Ratu Epeli is new president, says PM
Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has been confirmed as the new president. Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama confirmed this to the FijiSUN, last night. According to Mr Bainimarama, Ratu Epeli was appointed earlier this week. “We will have everything discussed in our next Cabinet meeting,” said Mr Bainimarama.......
later: Strange that this news was only in the Fiji Sun, and on the front page of the Fiji Daily Post the next day. Not newsworthy or just a rumour?
Okay, it eventually got into other papers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Advertising Fiji in Australia

from w, I was surprised to see a 24 page insert in the Herald Sun promoting Fiji with articles mainly by Rory Gibson. (Rory Gibson is a senior journalist on Queensland’s Courier-Mail newspaper. His most recent roles have included Weekend Editor and Night Editor, but by far the job he invests most of his time and energy in is writing the newspaper’s weekly beer column. He is a former Editor of the Townsville Bulletin, a former Editor-in-Chief of the Fiji Times, and former Chief Sub-Editor of The Australian.) I guess this is where some of the Fiji Visitors Bureau money is going. Certainly the prices of trips to the resorts sounds very good and the articles are the usual mix of fun and description even promoting Fiji's bad roads as 'part of the adventure'. Rory Gibson knows Fiji well and there is a lot of information. But will it entice more people to visit Fiji? As an insert in the Herald Sun, it won't reach everyone.

One disappointment though is that the significant Fiji Indian population is invisible in the articles except a pic of Vijay Singh the golfer as a quote about Natadola even though his involvement in Natadola was scrapped! Surely there ought to be something about the fabulous Indian food in the cafes, the temple in Nadi, the shopping and so on.

DiscoverMe. CaptivateMe. MarryMe. RelaxMe Fijime. Gimmicks.

An article by Stephanie Dowrick in the Saturday Age is honest. As a child she lived in Samoa. Now she writes of Pacific Dreaming as incomplete without the knowledge that life is tough, very tough for some South Pacific families.

How old is 'elderly'?

from w
I was surprised to read in the Fiji Sun today that the journalist considered a 52 year old as 'elderly'. Of course it depends upon the point of view. When I was 20, I thought 30 was really old. But these days I do think that '52' ought to be in the prime of life! Meanwhile my good wishes for the recovery of the woman injured in another bus accident, this time near Labasa.
Accident lands elderly in hospital
An elderly woman was admitted at the Labasa Hospital after a bus and a sugar cane locomotive collided at Wailevu Point in Labasa during the weekend.
The impact of the accident also left some passengers injured.

Northern Deputy Police Commander, Superintendent Bola Tamanisau, said there were more than 20 passengers in the bus."The bus was returning from Labasa Town to Wailevu in the afternoon about 5:30pm," said SP Mr Tamanisau.

The elderly Fijian woman, believed to be 52,
was rushed to the Labasa Hospital after the crash. She is still admitted in the Labasa Hospital.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Borders and jumping the queue

from w
Over many years we have been associated with helping Fijians and other Pacific Islanders to fix up their residential status in Australia with a lot of legal tangles, Detention Centre visits, etc. But those who come to Australia by plane and mess up their visas don't get the same publicity as those who come by leaky boats from Indonesia after leaving their problematic situations in places like Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan. There is much paper talk about them in Australia as there are about 1000 at the Detention Centre in Christmas Island waiting for visas to stay on.

Some say they are jumping the queue while others slowly, carefully, fill in hundreds of pages of forms. Others say that they are desperate people wanting to survive. Kevin Rudd commented on people smugglers as 'vermin' yet the man he really admires, Dietrich Bonhoffer, smuggled Jewish people out of Germany during World War 2. I think the criticism is not that 'people smugglers' are always bad per se, but that the Indonesian 'people smugglers' demand large sums of money from the desperate people escaping from dire situations.

Peceli and I were at a Diversitat meeting on Thursday night (Diversitat started as the Geelong Migrant Resource Centre) and one of the speakers - the guy who works with new settlements recently was in Thailand visiting a refugee camp for Karen people who crossed the border from Burma. There were 65000 people in the camp! He showed pictures and honestly, many of the people had lived there a whole generation. Then on the TV news I saw that in Sri Lanka there is a camp (looked after by the military) of about 250,000 Tamils dislocated by the war there. And yet some Australians get concerned about a mere 1000 people.

In Geelong some of the Afghan young men have been relocated from Christmas Island - 8 each week, recently, and they have been housed, and assisted in many ways especially by a free migration worker to fill out forms, English language classes, etc. However many have moved on the Melbourne to suburbs such as Dandenong, where there is a network of Afghan people.

Crossing borders is a complex issue and just won't go away in this desperately divided world. I am sure that Fiji would be inundated with leaky boats if it wasn't so far away in the Pacific Ocean!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Complications with free bus rides

from w
It does seem a convoluted way of getting free rides for students in primary and secondary schools. Do the teachers have to first cash a cheque, then sort out the cash and give to each child according to needs? That is rather complex. Why can't they just give student cards and drivers clip them and then the drivers send an invoice to the relevant government department. I am sure teachers don't want to spend hours each week giving out money to students. And... how many students will use the money for other purposes on the way home?

Do children who choose to walk to school get some pocket money for wearing out their shoe leather? Those who go in boats etc. etc.?

from fijivillage:
Govt to look at free bus fare concerns
Publish date/time: 22/10/2009 [11:18]
The government committee which is overseeing the free bus fare programme for students travelling in school buses is expected to meet today to look at various issues that have arisen since Wednesday.

Right now the system is that the Finance Ministry gives funds to the Education Ministry and then the money is deposited in school accounts. The schools then have to distribute the bus fare daily to students who travel in school buses. Suggestions have been made that the process can be streamlined.

One of the suggestions is that all bus companies submit their audited accounts over the previous years which will clearly show the trend of how much income is received by bus companies through their school bus trips. It is suggested that the amount will be consistent and that can be used by the government to pay the bus companies.

Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, Lt Colonel Pio Tikoduadua is expected to comment after the committee meeting today.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Bus Operators Association President Zain Dean has raised serious concern after they received information that some bus drivers are overcharging students. Dean said they want this issue to be addressed now and drivers and bus companies should be mindful of the government initiative.

Poaching fish near Udu

from w
No chance even to read much brief Fiji news on-line as our computer was infected with a rogue virus and after that was fixed, there's problems with internet/email etc. and it takes time for a grandma like me to get the gist of these long technical conversations with techno guys at my server! (I'm currently checking email etc. at the church office computer!) Meanwhile some fishermen are illegally poaching off the coast of Vanua Levu, which surely is a problem.

from Fiji Times
Villagers want end to poaching
Thursday, October 22, 2009

A CHIEF in the Northern Division says illegal fishing continues unabated in their traditional fishing grounds or qoliqoli. This has raised concerns among villagers of Udu district in Macuata with their chief Ratu Emori Waqanivalu calling for police intervention. He said a group of unlicenced fishermen from Labasa were in Udu's qoliqoli last week.

Ratu Emori said he saw the men diving in the qoliqoli near his village of Vunikodi but they loaded their catch further down the coast. Poaching, he said, had been a continuous problem and despite the presence of fish wardens, people continued to carry out illegal fishing activities in their qoliqoli.
Villagers want to work with police to stop the illegal activity. Ratu Emori said he would approach police and apart from lodging complaints of poaching, would ask for help to stop the problem.

Poaching has been a serious issue in the various qoliqoli of Macuata which resulted in the province introducing its own fish wardens. This has led to a drop in poaching cases in some districts of Macuata while others still suffer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blessings for Diwali

from w
Best wishes to our friends who celebrated the Festival of Lights this weekend in Fiji and other parts of the world. Rich in symbolism this is a lovely festival that can be shared by all people of good will.
from Monika Singh Fiji Times
Sunday, October 18, 2009Awesome ... Anand Prasad family light up their home at Velovelo in Lautoka last night.
IF the night is darkest before daybreak, then Diwali seems to be the new dawn. Renewed interest from young and old alike and happy faces thronged the streets and settlements throughout the country as Hindus celebrated the Festival of Light with fun and happiness.

The night came alive with candles, diya and flicking lights with firecrackers lighting the sky as people celebrated the special occasion with family and friends and even neighbours last night. People flocked to the streets and houses just the catch a glimpse of houses decorated with colourful lights, diya and candles. Much of the observance focused on the importance of light overcoming darkness as a symbol of good conquering evil...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Waisake and Mere visit Narana

from w
After visiting Jirralinga to see koalas and kangaroos (see Geelong Visual Diary) Peceli and I took our visitors from Navua, Rev Waisake and Mere to visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre called Narana. Norm Stanley kindly gave us a demonstration of the playing of the didgeridoo. An amazing instrument and Norm is one of the best players I've ever heard. These are photos from Waisake's camera and one picture is of him with Norm and Mitch. Check out some of the youtube sites for Norm Stanley playing the didgeridoo.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Students to have free bus rides

from w
I was amazed by one item in today's Fijivillage that students will be able to travel free on buses. ECREA have been pushing for the Fiji leaders to consider the high cost of travelling to school. Thank you ECREA. How to win friends and influence people I am wondering. This is a worthy concept because the cost of travelling to school is a real burden on most parents in Fiji. But... who is going to pay for it all? I thought money was tight in the government coffers. The bus companies will have to be compensated fully. Will the children have cards? Only Monday to Friday and in school uniform I expect?

Students to travel for free in school buses
Publish date/time: 16/10/2009 [07:44]
Good news for parents and students as the government made a historic decision late yesterday which is expected to see all the students travelling free in school buses from next Wednesday.

In an exclusive interview with Fijivillage, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had confirmed that the decision has already been made and government officials are now working on the finer details to ensure that the new program is implemented next week.

As Bainimarama has revealed they are targeting to get the free bus fare programme running for school students from next Wednesday. He had also revealed to Fijivillage that they will also be looking at the option on whether the program can roll over for next year. Bainimarama said they will also look at the subsidies to be given to the bus operators.

So it is good news for parents and students as the government made a historic decision late yesterday which is expected to see all the students travelling free in school buses from next Wednesday.

The government made the decision based on the government fiscal surplus of $30 million and Bainimarama has decided the money should be utilized to assist the parents and students until the end of the school year.

The decision follows submissions to the PM's office on the difficulties that many parents are facing to send their children to school every day due to the increase in bus fare. This was resulting in a high rate of absenteeism in a number of schools as reported in the survey recently conducted by ECREA.

(later) the finer details though:
The decision made means that any student travelling in the school buses from next Wednesday will not pay bus fares while students travelling in normal buses in uniform other than the school buses will pay half of the normal fare.

The half fare will only apply in the areas where no school buses are running.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rev Waisake and Mere in Australia

from w
All the way from Navua to Melbourne and Geelong, Rev Waisake and Mere are having a very good visit to Australia for the Hindi Fellowships Consultation and then moving around visiting friends. They are the talatala and radini ni talatala in the Indian Division based in Navua. Here are some of their photos including some with their hosts in Melbourne, Immanuel Krishna and Melvika and then on a train to Geelong and one photo was taken at the Donation in Kind depot.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meanwhile the Qawa River...

A never-ending story of the Qawa River and pollution....

from today's Fiji Times.What lies beneath ... Noa Rakadi, of Natokamu Village, beside the Qawa River which is devoid of life. Picture: THERESA RALOGAIVAU
Surely it's about time they stopped talking and really did something about it. It's appalling that the Qawa River in Labasa isn't cleaned up yet!
Death comes every 6 months
Theresa Ralogaivau
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE crabs and fish are gone and no amount of prodding in the mangrove swamps or throwing lines into the Qawa River will reel them in. This disappearance occurs every six months during the sugar cane crushing season. It has forced Natokamu and Cawaira villagers into a desperate search for food in what was once a river thriving with life. The impoverished Solomon Island fishing community at Cawaira has had to go further out to sea to make a decent catch.

Advisory councillor Timoci Biroko said the toxic discharge from the Fiji Sugar Corporation mill destroyed life in the river. Mr Biroki said little creeks and other rivers that branched off from the Qawa River had also been polluted. "Year in and year out we suffer this problem for between six to eight months a year," he said. "As soon as cane crushing season begins, that's it, all our river food is gone.
Two weeks after the mill opens, dead fish, crabs, malea, everything living in this river floats to the surface, dead. After that the smell hits us. At night it's like we are sleeping in the river. That's how bad the smell is."

Nemai Walolo, 72, of Natokamu Village, said a river favourite , the bakera (crabs) had vanished. Village headman Noa Rakadi said most of the eight families at Natokamu live off the river. "Their income, their food source is all gone so it's mostly just cassava and tea if they can't buy food from the shops," he said.

The Rural Local Authority carried out tests on the river and discovered all the food villagers held dear was dead at the bottom.

Secretary Rakesh Kumar said the tests revealed that the problem was being caused by an effluent discharge from the mill nearby which had decimated all river life. "There is sludge now at the bottom of the river. the tests were pretty alarming," he said. "There is a high level of decaying matter in the river which is giving rise to that bad smell and we feel this is injurious to public health."

Mr Kumar said they are working with FSC on the matter.
Comment: Stop saying they are working with FSC, do something about it! Also, I wanted to look up the FSC website and send a letter of complaint but ha ha, the FSC website doesn't work. Says it's under construction - or perhaps deconstruction!

Photos of Fiji Day and Consultation

from w
Fiji Day 10th October celebrates Fiji's independence in 1970, a former colony of Britain, still part of the Commonwealth but now a republic after the coup of 1987. Long story there! Anyway we have a special day each year, often with rugby matches, lovo food, Island night dancing in Melbourne. However this year Peceli and I were at Dandenong with our Indo-Fijian friends for the 10th International Consultation of Hindi Fellowships which was mainly Fiji Indian people. There was lots of talking, five church services, superb meals, and a dinner and concert at a hall in Wantirna. Here are a few photos including one of a shy girl dressed up, Padre Caleb, Sidal, Mavis, meke dancers. In the spirit of Fiji day there was a lovely interaction between the two cultural groups - singing or reciting in one another's languages. However the final song of 'Isa Lei' was the worst rendition I have ever heard as some basses upstaged everyone! I missed some of the best possible shots - an eight year old girl dancing Bollywood style on the stage while her two year old sister played with a ball, laughing all the time and nearly tripping over her beautiful long skirt as she ran across the hall. Way to go!

Some highlights of the weekend were:
*meeting Rev Mahesh Giri and Lalita and discovering how gracious, intelligent and warm they are. Lalita is also a gifted singer. They live and work in Seattle,
*meeting older friends - padres and their wives - one cannot see, one cannot hear, but they are still focussed on life and have gifts to share,
*meeting Rev Waisake and Mere who live in Navua and have been called to ministry based at the Timothy Memorial church and are now spending a few days im Geelong with us,
*meeting with middle-aged women who were raised in the Dilkusha orphanage many years ago and I remember them as young girls, and also Miss Gwen Davey, once the Dilkusha mother to them all, came to the final service at the weekend. Though has trouble walking, she is as alert as ever.
*singing bhajans and realizing I can still sing some of them and even read the script, though one bhajan music group played so fast we just couldn't catch up!
*the Moderator of the Uniting Church, Rev Alistair McCrae, and Moderator of Victoria, Mrs Isabel Thomas Dobson gave fine clear addresses at two of the worship services.
*tributes to the memory of Rev Dr Doug Fullerton, and a segment to honour 50 years since ordination of both Edward and Danny and I realized if they hadn't gone to Adelaide to study in the 50s I would never have gone to Fiji for that Methodist Workcamp in December 1961-January 1962. Long story.
*the food, glorious food at each meal so that the buttons on my blue dress nearly popped!

The few moments of disquiet I don't have to discuss here - I'm not good at sitting for a long time listening to speakers and prayers - I'd rather be arguing and discussing topics around a small table and I was sorry there wasm't more time for small group, face to face yarning and telling stories. The bhajan tunes and words are still in my head as we wind down after the lovely weekend in Dandenong.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hindi Fellowships Consultation

from w
My head is full of bhajans and stories but I'm tired so won't write now but Peceli and I had a wonderful weekend for Fiji Day as we joined in with the Hindi Fellowships Cosultation from 6 p.m. Friday till about 8 p.m. tonight. Just a few preliminary photos which include group shots taken on Saturday, the consultation banner, one picture of Peceli with the Navua Timothy Church padre and his wife.

Yesterday morning we sang a new song written by multi-talented Rev Graeme Sutton five years ago using the tune of Isa Lei. If you use it, give credits to the writer and Trinity Dandenong Uniting Church.

There’s a place where races come to worship,
by the Rewa, flowing deep and strong.
(or On Fiji Islands where faith is deep and strong)
From Dilkusha, (or In this nation) where all the hearts are smiling,
God is blessed in praise, and prayer and song.

Let your blessing fall like showers,
join our hearts forever, Lord, as one.
Holy Father, by your Spirit,
may we worship Jesus Christ your Son.

From this island-land of cane and palm tree;
to this land of vast and endless space.
Race apart, You’ve brought us here together;
and combined, we share of Jesus’ grace.

If we soar to heaven’s heights like eagles,
or in mines deep darkened caverns go;
on the farms, the cities or the school grounds,
there your love encompasses us, we know.

Precious Jesus, always watch between us
as we part and go our different ways.
May our friendship stretch across the ocean
with love you gave, and none can take away.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Playing golf in Geelong

from Peceli
As a member of Barwon Valley Golf Club I play about three times a week. It is green now, but last summer it was bone dry. Our water system is working well now as shown in the photos that Wendy and I took this afternoon. Clock on picture to see larger.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Go Ruthie go!

from w
It's Seniors Week for the over 60s, and also next weekend the Masters Games kicks off in Sydney for athletes aged from 35 to 100. Peceli and our youngest son were both training for the Masters as they'd won medals in a Melbourne meet earlier in the year but with the time away in Fiji Peceli just didn't train and other things got in the way. But they will have a throw next week here to see if their distance is up there!

Yesterday I went to some Seniors events and really, I was a bit disappointed when I was given handouts about depression, nursing homes, diabetes, and so on. Hey, surely there's life after 60! Then this morning on the ABC radio I heard an interview with an athlete preparing for the Games in Sydney. Ruth Frith from Brisbane who trains with weights three days a week and will compete in the hammer, shotput, javelin, discus and weights events. Go Ruthie! She will win gold because she is the only one in her age bracket. She is 100 years old! So I looked up her name on the web and found a few articles.
-------The 100-year-old Brisbane great-grandmother plans to compete in five events. Holder of five athletics world records in the 95-99 years category, Frith has participated in the Games for 25 years, exemplifying the age-is-no-barrier ethos that makes them so special. “I used to go to the World Games around the world and everyone would say: ‘Ruth, you mind my bag’,” says Frith, who followed her daughter Helen Searle, an Australian Olympic representative in 1960 and 1964. “I ended up surrounded by bags while they were all out on the field. I thought, ‘This is stupid, I may as well join in myself’
(written last year)
Article from:
Jim Tucker
November 07, 2008 11:00pm
WHAT does your average great grandma in her 90s want for her birthday? Ruth Frith wants a home gym to keep up to scratch with her hammer throw and shot put.
True story.
Ruth is a marvel at 99, a Masters athlete who refuses to act her age.
Grant Hackett has just retired as a swimming oldie of 28. Our super-senior citizen from Algester, on Brisbane's southside, is still competing.
This great grandmother of 11 has already enlisted for the World Masters Games which will draw an estimated 25,000 competitors to Sydney in October next year.
She is literally in a league of her own in the women's 95-99 age category in which her best throws for the discus (9.85m), hammer (11.37m) and shot put (4.72m) are all world bests.
"I hold five world records but, let's be honest, I'm the only competitor in my age group," she says with a smile.
"I'm the oldest competing in the world.
"You have to aim high ... I look at what those in their 80s are throwing and try to beat them.
"Honestly, I don't know what is so magical about being 99. It's just two numbers on a piece of paper and I'm still the same freckle-faced redhead I was at 98."
She is talking about the interest that has grown among a curious media over the past 12 months.
She's done more interviews than some Brisbane Lions footballers.
Calls have come from Germany and photos have been taken by a French news agency.
You are instantly taken by how sprightly super-gran is, her take on living life and her sharp recall of events through what most would call two lifetimes.
She doesn't just pick up a discus, fling it and claim a world record. She trains. Each Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday she practises her throwing after stretches to warm up.
We caught her yesterday after a 45-minute session on light weights and exercise bike which she follows three times a week.
It's the home gym bought for her by daughter Helen Searle (nee Frith), a dual Olympian who finished sixth in the high jump in Rome in 1960.
"My daughter asked me what I wanted for my 96th birthday. I said 'some weights' so I've got this wonderful home set-up where I can do my exercises," Ruth said.
"I just love the training. It's never a bore."
There's no heavy metal music to get her in the mood. A dreamy waltz or the work of Brisbane-bound violinist Andre Rieu is her taste.
Born in Goulburn in 1909, she was a promising schoolgirl athlete and hockey player when Don Bradman was still a boy.
She took up legal studies before the Depression stymied that career.
Married life took her around the country with her late husband Raymond, a civil engineer involved in the rebuilding of Darwin after Cyclone Tracey.
Most sports lovers talk of ending their playing days and moving into administration.
For Ruth, it was the other way around.
"I was always involved as an athletics official or referee but I became tired of hearing, 'leave the bags with Ruth'," she related.
"I decided I'd get out on the field, not sit in the grandstand."
She was already 74 when she contested her first World Masters Athletics Championships in Puerto Rico in 1983 and has not looked back.
In 1994 she was playfully referred to as the "up-and-coming Ruth Frith" when she broke a record.
"I've met so many wonderful people. Even when you can't speak the same language, you just hug each other until you catch up next time," Ruth said.
To what does she credit her vitality?
"In my era, kids lived a totally different life," she said.
"There was no junk food and I think it's the foundation set as a little kid.
"I'm a believer in genes too. My father had an athletic background so I was given a chance.
"It's up to every person to use their particular gift or not.
"Of course, I love the athletics. That's it."
This Masters competitor extraordinaire has never smoked or had a drink since an early sip of beer in her youth convinced her "it tasted like bad vinegar".
She feels like she is in her 60s and inspires anyone who might think they have picked up a bat, a football or a tennis racquet for the last time to reconsider.
She will also become a pleasant headache for Masters athletics officials in August. They don't have a 100-plus age category on their books . . . yet.

Monday, October 05, 2009

'It's not fair,' says the Samoan

from w
When the parachute journalists and ambulance chasers leave Samoa the people still go on to pick up the pieces. I saw this photo on the internet the other day, and then again in today's Fiji Times and thought it impressive as if the woman is saying, 'I'm still standing....' On the TV news a senior Samoan gentleman was speaking and he said, 'It's not fair. I believe in God. I know these kind of things happen, but it's not fair to lose your family like this.' The stories of the earthquake and tsunami and loss in the two Samoas and the northern island of Tonga continue to be in the news, alongside other disasters such as in Sumatra. The emphasis in the news is so often death and destruction. Perhaps this is a reminder to think outside our comfort zone.

But do journalists over-do it and get in the way of the real work of reconstruction?

The best is that the knowledge provided by the media means that other people can emphathize and show some compassion by organising memorial services and collecting money and goods to send over to Samoa, Tonga, and other places in great need.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fiji Geelong Friendship Club

from Peceli
Last Friday night we had our annual meeting in our home. Our organisation has been running for over twenty years and is a network linking Fiji families living in the Geelong region and new migrants.

Fiji Geelong Friendship Club Inc.

President’s Report 2009

Only a life living for others is life worthwhile.
By Albert Einstein

Thanks to all menbers of the Fiji Geelong Friendship Club and welcome to our annual meeting. I am recovering from the extremely busy five weeks I had recently in Fiji Islands. A part of my trip was to attend the Annual Conference which was in fact not allowed because of the Emergency Regulations of the Interim Government and partly attending the funeral of Balebale Seniloli the husband of my niece in Nadi and going to Labasa for two weeks to see family, help with a Rotary project and a solar panel investigation with a young man from Melbourne. After I returned I had to go to Hobart to attend the funeral of Rev Aminiasi Qalo who was my school mate. He came from Komo Lau.

Every Tuesday Joe Cordone’s office became a place for an enjoyable bowl of kava. Our routine in Geelong has been to meet about fortnightly in the homes of some of our members, so we say a thank you to Selai and Ken, Sione and Kesa, Rev Tevita and Tine, Lai and Nicole, and Wendy for giving their homes for Friday meetings. We missed Joe Cordone for a few months when he went to Italy to visit his good mother. This year has been good year for a few babies, including the youngest daughter for Lai and Nicole, grand-children for Ken and Selai, Christine’s daughter Nanise, named after Siteri’s mother who died in the Sigatoka fire tragedy. The newest baby is Kitione, son of Vili and Lutu, Sailosi’s daughter. David and Ema Wetherell held two afternoon tea parties to fund-raise for the Methodist Church in Fiji. Vinaka vakalevu.

Fiji news comes to us via Tepola’s SBS program on Saturdays from 3 p.m. Wendy collects stories from the internet and also writes the Babasiga blog which gets about 300 hits per day. Fiji Day this year is on October 10th this year at Moorabin and is mainly a rugby tournament followed by an Island Night.

Alan Wise who is in hospital this week told me the Fiji boats no longer come to Geelong to collect wheat. Sometimes I get calls from people who have been referred on to the Fiji Geelong network such as a student researching Fiji, new migrants who do not know anyone, a lone Fijian in a nearby town. Also there are sometimes requests to assist with immigration matters such as referrals and letters to the Australian Embassy.

We received two grants from the Victorian Multicultural Commission, for $500 and $600 and we thank Wendy as Project Officer for making submissions for grant to pay for running our organization. The financial report prepared by Ken Osterfield explains the use of our money during the past year.

Wendy and I represented our group at Diversitat meetings and other occasions with representatives from the many migrant groups in Geelong.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Same old story about the Qawa River

from w
Come on you guys in Labasa. Giving them three years? You've got to be joking. This is an old, old, old story. It should have been managed better decades ago. Do not give them three years, give them three days! It's gross that the Qawa river in Labasa are polluted by the sugar mill. From Fiji Sun today:

State to act against Qawa River pollution
Moves are underway in Labasa to end the pollution of Qawa River. This is revealed by the Director of Environment, Epeli Nasome yesterday. “It is visually evident that unwanted waste is discharged from the Labasa Mill,” said Mr Nasome. Mr Nasome said a meeting was held with executives of Labasa Mill this week to find ways of ending the pollution. “The environment is our surrounding and it should always be clean and free from pollution.”

He confirmed that Labasa Mill had been given three years to improve its waste drainage system to minimise pollution to the river.

Attempts to get comments from the Labasa Mill were futile yesterday.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fiji Times Editorial

(image found in Google)from w.
Today's editorial in the Fiji Times provides a clear explanation of the geology and marine environment in which the South Pacific people are situated. An earthquake or a tsunami is not 'an act of God', it is part of the vulnerability we experience in life because of weather and geology. These are extraordinary events and hopefully rare, but they can be explained. Fiji had a very large loka (tsunami) in the Labasa area in 1928 when the surge went right up the rivers. Be alert. Be prepared.

I was astonished to read that when an earlier tsunami warning was given in Fiji, teachers of schools along the shoreline in Suva told the children to go straight home. Many of them walked to the bus-stand along the Nasese seawall!

An earth-shattering wake-up call
Friday, October 02, 2009

AS we slept last night, several earthquakes were occurring in the trenches deep in the ocean all around us.In fact, after the 8.3 magnitude Samoan quake occurred, about 56 earthquakes occurred in the deep trenches of the Samoa, Fiji, Tonga triangle. Many of these quakes were so deep that we would not have felt them.

Every day, the tectonic plates of the Pacific move. And every day earthquakes are recorded in the mountains under the sea around us. Experts say that where an undersea earthquake happens in a "subduction zone", which is where one tectonic plate is being pushed down below another, a tsunami can occur. Indeed, this is the explanation that has been offered for the deadly tsunami that hit parts of the two Samoas and Tonga. In fact, experts says that where the earthquakes happen below the sea but not too deep, we can expect more tsunamis to occur.

This should be a wake-up call for all of us. We cannot afford to have "malua fever" (act slowly) or be "madua" (embarrassed) about issues to do with safety after earthquakes. And we cannot afford to let our children think that such things are to be laughed at. Many lives have been lost as a result of earthquakes and the resulting tsunami over the past few days. This is certainly no laughing matter.

Experts say the most forceful impact of the Samoan tsunami was felt in Samoa and Tonga because of how the sea-floor was deformed after the earthquake and movement of the tectonic plates on that day.

The size and pattern of the tsunami depends on the amount and orientation of that sea-floor deformation. It is for this reason that none of us can afford to take our safety for granted. It could have easily been us.

Experts have warned that people who live near faults capable of producing earthquakes which can trigger tsunamis must learn to self-evacuate. They recommend that any teaching on what to do during times of emergency start with the principle that we not wait around. Given the geology of the environment in which we live, we cannot afford to take such advice lightly. A geophysical and climate hazards professor has warned that we are yet to take heed of the lessons of the Christmas 2004 tsunami disaster.

The lesson is this: Whenever the ground shakes or the sea recedes, we must self-evacuate. Do not wait around for a warning siren. Do not wait around for your uncle's phone call. Do not wait around for the authorities to tell you that something is wrong.

This is something that we must teach our children, friends and families. It could be the difference between life and death.

One response to the disaster in Samoa

from Peceli,
I received this email and I am passing it on to our website. Me da masulaki Samoa.
UnitingWorld launches Samoa Tsunami Appeal

In response to reports of the devastating impact of the Samoa tsunami and the enormous relief effort our partner churches face, UnitingWorld has launched an emergency relief appeal. UnitingWorld’s Associate Director Church Solidarity (Pacific) Bruce Mullan has been in contact overnight with the leadership of the Samoan Methodist Church and the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa to offer support to UnitingWorld’s Church Partners in Samoa.

“The leadership of our partner churches indicated that any support from the Uniting Church in Australia would not only be used to attend to immediate medical, food supply and clothing needs but also to address the long term impact of the tsunami,” said Mr Mullan.

UnitingWorld has learned that a Samoan Congregational minister’s wife was killed and many church members have been affected by the tragedy. Methodist General Secretary, Rev. Tupo Folasa II, reported that authorities are still finding bodies while many more are homeless and in need of food and clothing.

Congregational General Secretary, Rev. Dr Lutisone Salevao, said people were, “still reeling from the adverse effects of what has happened.”

“We’re doing our best to cope,” he said.

Mr Mullan said a key issue is not just the damage to homes, church buildings and property but the emotional damage that the Samoan people have suffered. “My feeling is that more than anything the appeal might address, they are comforted that their Uniting Church sisters and brothers in Australia were in solidarity with them at this time,” he said. “They really covet our prayers.”

UnitingWorld is accepting donations to the Samoa Tsunami Appeal for the immediate needs and long term wellbeing of the affected communities. More information about the appeal is available on UnitingWorld’s website at

Donations can be made to UnitingWorld: Online
Call 1800 998 122 Via mail PO Box A2266 Sydney South 1235
Gifts of $2 and over are tax deductible.