Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Fiji wedding - from the archives

It's an anniversary today - 31st December and it's a bit hard to remember forty years ago in Lautoka. Anyway here's a picture taken about that time of us with Nau Levu and Nau Kisi.

Fiji scouts in Australia for a jamboree in Bendigo

from w
Fiji scouts in Australia for a jamboree at Bendigo
The City of Greater Bendigo (in Australia) is busy preparing to host 12,000 scouts and leaders who are coming to town in January for the 21st Australian Scout Jamboree. They are from across Australia and the Pacific region, including Fiji.

About fifty girl and boy scouts from Suva are already in Melbourne and will travel to Bendigo tomorrow. They are from the Scout Troop from Gospel Primary School, Samabula, mostly eleven and twelve year olds. They are having a great time already in Melbourne being looked after mainly by a Motuku family.

Last Friday night the visiting scout group hosted a concert at Moreland Hall in Melbourne, all nicely decorated with masi. The concert was enjoyed with much enthusiasm and laughter from the audience of mainly Fiji migrant families. The scouts performed mekes (meke iri, meke ni veli, etc.)and skits and sang patriotic and religious songs, even dancing to a psalm and Bible reading. Their headmaster, who is from Kadavu, accompanied the group, and also some teachers, scout masters and some senior boys from RKS. The skits had the audience in fits of laughter as the visiting scouts acted out exaggerated scenes from life in Suva. Kids of eleven and twelve are long-limbed, some skinny, not yet fully grown, and so energetic.They certainly do like to dress up as characters from Suva's night life! One skit was about a faith-healer like Benny Hinn who fixed up people but caught their illnesses, including a pregnancy so everyone laughed at that. The fund-raising concert will help them a little bit with their tour expenses.

I’ll post some pictures from the concert when I get them.

Our boys were cubs and scouts when they were children and two attended jamborees in Fiji – at Lautoka and at QVS. Also, Peceli was a Scout chaplain in Geelong several years ago, so we are always happy to see that scout groups are still flourishing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fiji: Looking in the Mirror - a fable

from W
Peceli told me a version of this story this morning so I wrote it up, changing it just a little from its original context in China. There's a moral in it somewhere for Fiji I am sure.

Looking in the Mirror

Once upon a time there were no mirrors in Fiji, until one man named Bula obtained one which he kept secretly in his bag. He would look at the mirror every morning and every night and talk to it, but he never showed the mirror to anyone. No-one in his household had ever looked in a mirror, ever.

One day his wife Ema got suspicious and when her husband went off to the fields to clean his yam patch, she snuck into the place where he kept his bag and opened it up, picked up the mirror and looked at it.

“Oilei!’ she shouted. ‘He has got another wife, and she’s very pretty!’

When Bula came back from the fields wanting his tea and vakalolo, she confronted him. ‘Watiqu, what’s this?” Ema showed him the mirror.

He looked at it and said, sadly, ‘That’s my deceased father and I talk to him every morning and every night.’

‘It is not! It’s another woman!’

‘Alright, if you don’t believe me, let’s go to the patrol post and ask the officer there.’

They finish their tea and vakalolo then go off down the street with the mirror safely tucked into the bag.

The officer is told the story then Bula takes out the mirror, averting his eyes as he hands over the mirror.

The soldier is surprised. ‘Oilei! That’s a soldier in the mirror. He has a strong nose. What’s he doing there? I can’t solve your problem so you had better go to the talatala.’

The mirror is packed up again in the bag and the couple go off up the hill to see the minister who is reading his Bible under a mango tree.

‘Pardon me,’ says Bula, and he tells the minister that his wife says he is unfaithful.

The minister peers into the mirror and exclaims, ‘Well, I don’t see a woman there. I just see a talatala and he’s quite good-looking. Can’t help you there.’

The couple trudge back home again and Ema’s mother is waiting. ‘Where have you two been? Sobosobo, there’s no work done around here. What’s got into you!’

Bula tells his mother-in-law that her daughter is arguing and unhappy because she reckons he has another wife somewhere.

Ema butts in, ‘Yes, Mum, and he looks at her every morning and every night!’

Mother-in-law peers into the mirror and exclaims. ‘Well, looks like you have another mother-in-law too, so where is she hiding?’

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chicken coops and landslides

from w
Far away from the crowds in Suva bickering over coups, Vorovoro Island life for the tribewanted gang goes on unheeded. Here Raijeli tends to her chickens. No doubt she's a lass named after Auntie Raijeli, Tui Mali's sister.

And the roads continue to be in urgent need of repairs such as the Naisali area on the road from Savusavu to Labasa where there was a huge landslide after heavy rain last week. It's been fixed for now so traffic can flow again.

Quiet and disquiet in Fiji

from W
Quiet and Disquiet in Fiji
In Fiji – dissent and the psychology of being silenced

People in Fiji are being told to be quiet, to be silent, not to share their personal views. A elderly retired doctor tells people in Fiji to be patient and silent. A policeman talks about being ‘insensible’. Well, in the Fiji English Dictionary that means ‘not capable of feeling’ so I don’t think he meant that. ‘Insensible’ sounds more like after a long night on the kava! Others command silence while a program of seeking out ‘corruption’ takes place.

Many people choose to be silent for various reasons – lack of relevance, apathy, distance from Suva, but others want to speak but are silenced through taking care of possible consequences.

Okay, people are commanded to avoid dissent, to not express a difference of opinion, or at least not to say it out loud, or even to write it in Letters to the Editor. How fortunate are writers on some internet boards because – behind the screen of anonymity - they can vent their spleen and say their say.

The ‘clean-up’ has now been called a ‘National Audit’ and while this is going ahead, people are urged to restrain themselves from offering opinions. Well, I think this is very unhealthy.

When a student is silenced by the sarcasm of a teacher, when a child is silenced by the anger of a parent, when a wife is silenced by the intimidation of her husband, when a worker is silenced by the demands of a CEO, when a citizen is silenced by the orders from a person wielding weapons, what happens to those ‘silenced’?

This is not order in society, but a situation where the results can be damaging psychologically to many people. To be subdued can lead to poor physical health as well as a suppressed anger, a possibility of not only cynicism, but a simmering anger, a bitterness, a desire for revenge.

It’s an extremely unhealthy situation in family life, work life, and in community life. To allow dissent is healthy. Otherwise there is going to be more post-traumatic stress, depression, poor self-esteem.

Perhaps a good physical clean up and a beautification of the landscapes from Reservoir Road down to the sea might be necessary for the future residents who live there.

Christmas at Altona Meadows - more pictures

from Peceli

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day at Altona Meadows

two pics taken with a mobile phone yesterday at the Christmas worship and the drawing is of course about kava drinking, today, yesterday, the other day...

A committee meeting ponders on Fiji

from w
I found this drawing entitled 'Committee meeting' by another Wendy, and decided it was appropriate when thinking about committees such as the South Pacific Forum or the Melanesian group.
'Hey, frankly I don't know what to do about this recalcicrant!'

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Forget about the reason for the season!

A friend, John, emailed this to us. I guess it's been around the traps or else John wrote it himself, but it makes me shake my head in despair - and laugh too.

John's email -

I wanted to send out some sort of holiday greeting to you, but it is so
difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending
someone. So I met with my Solicitor yesterday, and on his advice, I wish
to say the following:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes
for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress,
non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the Summer Solstice holiday
period, practiced within the most enjoyable tradition of the religious
persuasions or secular practices of your choice with respect for the
religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their
choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and
medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally
accepted calendar year of 2007, but not without due respect for the
calendars of choice of other cultures, whose contributions to society
have helped make Australia great (not to imply that Australia is
necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "Australia" in
the western hemisphere) and without due regard to the race, creed,
colour, age, physical ability, or disability, religious faith or the
sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely
transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no
promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for
him/herself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is
revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted
to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for
a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday
greeting, whichever comes first and warranty is limited to replacement
of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the

/Disclaimer: No trees were harmed, nor any whales saved or harmed, in
the sending of this message, however a significant number of electrons
were slightly inconvenienced./

Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne

We are watching the Carols by Candlelight in the TV from the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, a strong tradition every 24th December. It's cool tonight so we aren't going to the Geelong Carols. Cool? Yes, they say there may be snow in the mountains so that might put out the bushfires!
The Carols program is mainly geared to families with young children and quite often some of the items do seem far away from the Christmas story, such as Pluckaduck!

A tradition is born
The inspiration for Carols by Candlelight® was born one Christmas Eve in 1937, as radio veteran, the late Norman Banks MBE, strolled along historic St Kilda Road in Melbourne after a late night radio shift.

As he walked, he noticed an elderly woman sitting up in bed by her window, her face lit only by a candle. She had a radio beside her and was singing along to the Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger”. It was at this moment that Banks was inspired to create the first gathering of people to sing carols by candlelight.

His employers, the management of 3KZ, who were sponsoring a new wing of the Austin Hospital, agreed that this dream could become a reality, but the first problem was to get the support of the City Council.

It was not easy to gain general support for the idea, and if it not been for the gracious personal interest of the Lord Mayor at the time, Cr. A.W. Coles, the sceptics would have quashed the project. Having gained the approval of the City Council, Norman Banks set to work and organised the whole program.

The first Carols

In 1938, 10,000 people gathered at midnight in the Alexandra Gardens to sing carols with a 30 strong choir, two soloists and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Band. The unusual candlelight setting, and the beauty of the carols, instantly won the affection of the large assembly. A new Christmas tradition was born.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

George Speight leaves Nukulau

from Peceli
Closing of Nukulau

A beautiful small island not far from Suva used to be a picnic place for people, but for the last six years it has been a prison for political prisoners such as George Speight. Just this week, it was decommissioned as a prison and the men have been relocated to other gaols such as Korovou in Suva and Naboro out of Suva.

Just by closing Nukulau the problem will not be solved about those remaining 18 men.

Today’s military/political problem cannot be solved until what happened in the year 2000 is looked at again. There is a Fijian saying ‘Vesuka vakaca na qari’ which means the two teeth of the crabs are not tied properly and they can bite you.

The Muanikau Accord in 2000 promised Speight and his men to be given amnesty. This Accord was broken which is a betrayal of their word, and Speight and his men were arrested like animals. And then sent to prison. When they wanted Speight to tell the whole story, he said no, and just went to gaol for life.

The mutiny of November 2000 was part of the reaction to this betrayal.

Last year I visited Nukulau and spent time talking with the men there, including George Speight. They are mature men these days and I was surprised that they are reformed men and very religious. It was a visit to some of my relations.

I don’t think Korovou and Naboro are the place for them. They should go back to help their families. They have been punished for long enough. They were following orders and were not initiators of the 2000 coup.

The qari is still biting Fiji. Vesuka vakaca na qari. Now the qari is biting the vanua, the lotu, the matanitu, and of course ordinary citizens of Fiji. And of course, the army too.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas decorations on the streets of Melbourne

from w
I was amused to read an article by Lorna Edwards in today’s Age newspaper about the competition in Melbourne to have the most spectacular street of Christmas decorations.

This year we haven’t even put up a string of coloured lights on the verandah. Bah humbug to Christmas lights until the Fiji army goes back to the barracks! Actually, you only see lights and stars when it's dark.

LANA Spivey could hardly wait for the crowds to come as she positioned a giant inflatable tree on a lawn already bursting with Christmas bling. She’s proud to be a Griswold, the festive family in Christmas Vacation that almost bring down the city’s power when the switch is flicked on their illuminated house."I just love it and it’s my favourite time of year," she says. "We always sit outside and talk to the people who come and it’s just so gratifying when you see the children’s faces." The Spiveys live in Kamarooka Drive, Wattle Glen, one of a growing number of suburban streets sporting a blinding wattage of Christmas spirit.

The Boulevard in Ivanhoe may have been firmly entrenched as Melbourne’s Christmas Street for four decades, but Kamarooka Drive residents are damn sure they’re not going to be forgotten. Armed to the teeth with glowing Santas, prancing reindeer and shooting stars, the folk of Wattleglen believe they have surpassed their complacent rival.
"I think we are the new Boulevard," says Spivey. "We now get buses and buses of people and it’s literally like Bourke Street."

By day, you wouldn’t know it. Kamarooka Drive is an unassuming row of brick veneers stretching up a hill alongside the towering power lines that separate them from the neighbouring Diamond Creek estate.

As the drought and water restrictions bite, the front lawns are dull and parched. But by night, it’s a different story. The hillside is aglow like a mini Las Vegas. There are gleaming herds of reindeer, cascading icicles, rows of candy canes and Santas galore.And not just static Santas, either: he climbs, sings, dances and cycles. The Spiveys and their 50-odd festive neighbours work hard to bring in the crowds.

"Every year we build on it and go to the Boxing Day sales at Target at Kmart," says Spivey.

This year’s piece de resistance is by the front door: a karaoke Santa that belts out half a dozen carols. There are few dim spots on Kamarooka and the forecourts that run off it……

There are an equally large number of blackened homes that just say no to all the hoho- ho. But after seven years on the street, Ebacioni is not put off by the bah-humbuggers.

Etc. etc.
Pictures coming up a bit later! google doesn't like them so far!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Davui (triton) and crown of thorns starfish

from w
The predator of the crown of thorns starfish that does so much damage to coral reefs is the Fijian davui - or triton.
When we look at this as a metaphor, the 'clean up' davui is destroying the crown of thorns starfish to bring health back to the reef - or
the davui should be getting rid of those who are currently creating havoc in Fijian society over the past two weeks.
Two points of view...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Christmas to the children of Dilkusha

from w.
I remember may happy times spent with the children at the Dilkusha Orphanage. It's a hundred years since a Methodist lay missionary started caring for small girls in the Nausori area, and then an orphanage and primary school were established a bit later. At this time in the year some people remember that kindness and gift-giving are part of the Christmas culture and give treats to the Dilkusha children. We lived one time at the bottom of the hill beneath the Dilkusha home. Some of the 'mothers' of Dilkusha I remember are Elsebe Smith and Gwen Davey and Deaconess Olivia.

One of the pics here was taken at Borron House a few days ago where the children were given gifts and the other pic shows Dilkusha Primary school girls dressed up for the 100 year celebration a few weeks ago. Happy Christmas to the children of Dilkusha, Waila and Nausori. Dilkusha is a Hindi word for 'happy heart'.

All I want for Christmas is... Letters from Fiji

Santa: Hey Donna and Blitzen, I can't make much sense of these letters! One says 'All I want for Christmas is an amnesty, an amnesty, an amnesty...' and the writer has written it 100 times. The other letter - 'All I want for Christmas is to getta outa this place.' Hard to read the signatures but I think one is a B, and the other is a S. Don't know what I can do about these letters!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

When women pray

from w.
Fiji Times today:
Women pray for peaceFriday, December 15, 2006

Members of Femlink Pacific and other women at a peace vigil in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Suva yesterday. A WOMEN'S group yesterday started a blue ribbon peace vigil in church. Femlink Pacific members gathered at the Holy Trinity Cathedral church in Suva and prayed for the country.

"The blue ribbon campaign was first held in 2000 by the women's peace vigil.

"It was co-ordinated by members of the National Council of Women Fiji (NCWFiji) in 2000," said co-ordinator Sharon Bhagwan Rolls.

"We call on all Fiji citizens to wear a blue ribbon everyday as a symbol of their support for peace and democracy, the rule of law and active non-violence,'' she said.

"We call it a silent peace vigil because it is a time for us to keep quiet because there is so much going on at the moment.''

She said they believed it was an important strategy for the long-term reconstruction of the country.

"It is also important to reiterate that this is part of women's peace initiative.

"It is very important this time round because we are going to be adamant that women have got to be part of the formal process," she said.

"Unfortunately, even the so-called resolution in the 2000 crisis very much marginalised women and our organisation has been working on it," she said.

The blue ribbon campaign has been adopted by the broad membership of concerned citizens and non-government organisations which are part of the coalition for democracy and peace chaired by Suliana Siwatibau.

She said the coalition for democracy and peace was a non political initiative. It is a forum where all citizens in the country and members of non-government organisations can come together to offer peaceful options in a time of crisis.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reconciliation in Fiji - a little stamp forgotten?

from W.
A tiny stamp, hard to read but it does say, Embracing our Shared Future - a United Fiji for all, Ministry of Multi-Ethnic Affairs and National Reconciliation and Unity.

Hmm. Dream on. Or perhaps the Christmas season might do it!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Survivor 14 at Vunivutu and a military coup in Suva

from W
People are glued to TVs watching 'reality' TV programs such as Survivor, but at Vunivutu this past week, actors and participants have been glued to TVs watching 'faction' or 'fiction' of a military coup happening mainly in Suva - distant from Vanua Levu.

from realityblurred website:

Blurred reality and a coup
“Minimal” effect on Survivor production
recent stories about Survivor Fiji

Yesterday’s military coup in Fiji hasn’t significantly impacted production of Survivor Fiji.

E! reports that the show “is being filmed on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second-largest island and a 30-minute flight away from Viti Levu,” where “soldiers bloodlessly took control of police headquarters … claiming that the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s government is corrupt. … The U.S. State Department then temporarily suspended aid to the country after condemning the military’s actions.”

Jeff Probst sent an e.mail message to Entertainment Weekly and said all was well with the show:

“To be shooting Survivor while the host country is in the midst of a coup is a bit surreal for all of us here in Fiji. We have set up our satellite TV in the catering area [for producers and crew members only] and during dinner the entire crew watches the local news to get updates on what is happening. … Fortunately, we are on another island that is a 30-minute flight away from the capital city of Suva where the coup is centered. Everyone here is safe and the disruptions thus far have been minimal. We had a few production staff stationed in Suva that we brought back to base camp, and during the past week any crew members that were scheduled to fly to location were unable to due to flight cancellations. Otherwise, we have continued filming without interruption.”

Sounds surreal to me, but I am so so disappointed and angry about what is happening in Suva that I can't really post my own comments. However there's a good article by Sanjay Ramesh.

Also, from Fiji Times – Your Say - Colin Deoki writes from Melbourne.
Someone greater than us said, "My people perish for lack of a vision." If you choose vision, you will slowly break the back of those create "di-vision" in your land. God Bless.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mali Island, far from the events in Suva

These four photos are courtesy of tribewanted on Vorovoro Island, chief's blog of the children at Mali District School at their end of year celebration.

Pulling your weight or throwing your weight around?

from W.
Are you a builder or a destroyer, or just someone who watches the world go by?
Here's an example of an ordinary man, John Fenton, who did extraordinary things with his land near Hamilton in the Western District of Victoria. He changed the land from degraded and damaged land to lakes and stands of trees.

From ABC Landline 10 Dec 2006
Reporter: Pip Courtney
First Published: 02/07/2006
SALLY SARA: Nine years ago, Landline visited a remarkable grazing property near Hamilton in Western Victoria called Lanark. When John Fenton took it over in 1956 it was dry, windswept, overstocked, and virtually treeless. He started planting trees and soon found he could not stop. Without meaning to, he created a Landcare masterpiece, where nature co-existed alongside the family's wool-growing operation. There was a big response to Pip Courtney's original story, and ever since, many people have asked after Lanark and John Fenton. Well, we decided it was time to revisit the tree man of Hamilton.

PIP COURTNEY: This is what the 700-hectare sheep-grazing property, Lanark, looked like in the '50s and '60s, after it had been overstocked, over-cleared and drained. The property, in the heart of Victoria's prime wool-growing country, was clapped out and flogged. This, though, is what Lanark looked like when Landline visited in 1997. A massive man-made wetland thrummed with birdlife and there were tree plantings of every shape imaginable all over the property. There were habitat plantings for wildlife, softwood and hardwood forestry wood lots and shelter belts. The incredible transformation was the work of this man, John Fenton, who, between 1956 and the late 1990s, planted, with the help of his family, hundreds of thousands of trees. At first, he planted trees for shelter and revegetation, but by the early '80s, inspired by what he had seen in New Zealand, John Fenton moved into farm forestry. Here is a slice of the original story.

PIP COURTNEY: It was the first summer and winter at Lanark, burning hot, followed by biting winds and cold, that encouraged John to plant trees around the house. After that, he planted trees to provide shelter for stock and slow the wind across the paddocks. Tree planting became John's weekend hobby and then the hobby turned into an obsession. He became an accidental conservationist, if you like, one that many now say was decades ahead of his time. To chase indigenous tree seed, to try various planting methods and tree varieties, to plant both forest and habitat trees, just to spend money on trees was, in the '50s and '60s, inexplicable.

JOHN FENTON: I think farmers probably at that stage only thought of trees as being aesthetic plantings around homesteads, primarily.

JIM SINATRA: He has created economic futures for his children and his grandchildren by planting two hectares of trees per year that will reap returns of $50,000 or so per hectare, 20-plus a little-plus years down the road, and he has done that by taking about 20% of his property, just under 20% of the property and putting it into all these efforts. And I would like you to show me another farmer in Australia that's done that.

PIP COURTNEY: In the '60s, apart from planting trees, what convinced locals that John was potty was when he gave Lanark back its wetlands. Putting 150 acres of land under water was unheard of. Locals were dumbfounded. While you were building this wetland, what were other farmers in Victoria doing?

JOHN FENTON: They were draining wetlands.

PIP COURTNEY: What did people think of you in the first 10 years that you were here?

JOHN FENTON: I didn't care and I care a damn sight less now.

PIP COURTNEY: We had a huge response to the Lanark story and so did the Fenton family. In nine years, viewer interest in the property hasn't wavered. I'm often asked if the trees are still there and if the next generation has taken over. Given the interest, we thought a visit was in order. The good news is the trees are still there. As you can see from these before and after shots, they've just grown taller, fatter and more valuable.

DAVID FENTON: There was a lot of public reaction, Pip. Yeah, Dad received letters from all over Australia and some from around the world.

PIP COURTNEY: What do you think resonated with people?

DAVID FENTON: I think probably one man's ambition, one crazy man's ambition. I think the fact that this man had decided to turn his 1,700 acre backyard into an oasis.

PIP COURTNEY: From the air, it's clear how different Lanark is to nearby properties. While it's broken up by all manner of shapes and varieties of tree plantings, neighbouring properties still have great expanses of cleared ground. John Fenton had a 100-year plan for Lanark. He says our visit was well-timed because it's 50 years since he took over and the plan is at the halfway mark.
How would you say Lanark has changed since we were here nine years ago?

JOHN FENTON: Well, the big change has been one of shifting for Cicely and myself. It's been a hard thing to do.

PIP COURTNEY: Three years ago, John Fenton and his wife, Cicely, left Lanark and moved into nearby Hamilton. Lanark's wool, prime lamb and farm forestry operations are now run by their son. Your Dad had a particular dream. Is your dream for Lanark the same?

DAVID FENTON: Yes, long-term sustainability. I believe that Dad was at one extreme and that was the wrong extreme. I mean, he was too much one way. We had to increase productivity in order to stay on the land, otherwise we were going to lose the farm, and I've lifted productivity to the extent that I'm happy with where we are........

PIP COURTNEY: He may be regarded as something of an eccentric, but the next generation of Fentons is benefitting from what he calls his headstrong ways.

CATH FENTON: It's only the extremists that sort of open the eyes of everyone around, and you need people like that or we'd all just be so mediocre, that they are really the only people that make a change. He is an inspiration now. He was a madman back then - that's what they thought - but when you look at what he's done, thank goodness he did.
The Tree Man from Hamilton
Reporter: Pip Courtney
In 1956, 21 year old John Fenton took over the family farm called “Lanark” about 20 minutes south of Hamilton in Victoria.“Lanark” was 1, 700 acres of Barren, windswept, almost tree-less pasture. It was not that different from most properties because in hose days the law said any crown-purchase lease had to be two-thirds cleared of trees before clear title would be issued.

John Fenton started planting trees. Soon this weekend hobby became an obsession and in the district he was referred to “as that mad tree bloke” He caused further head scratching when he re-introduced the wetlands to the property by bulldozing a 150 acre lake.

“Lanark” today is one of the great examples of property management you would wish to see. About 30 percent is given to over to trees - 10 percent for wildlife habitat and 20 percent for agro-forestry. John Fenton estimates he has spent $250, 000 on trees over the years. When the timber is ready for logging, his son and grandson will have a perpetual income of about $100, 000 every year from timber.
During all this tree-planting, “Lanark” has remained profitable with a steady income from wool and prime lambs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Let's go fishing or on a picnic

from P and W
We woke up this morning and it promised to be a very nice day, not too hot, not cool. At least we know now the situation in Fiji. The waiting was very difficult for everybody. We decided that surely we could spend the day having a picnic at Point Lonsdale and do some sketching. Get away from the telephone and the computer and the updates on Fiji.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
O, Wilderness were Paradise now!

Hmm. Not quite the same - a thermos of coffee, two oranges and a sharp knife, two hot pies - a picnic amid the t-trees. We went to the lighthouse at Point Lonsdale and it was high tide, the waves really rolling in. This lighthouse has been there since 1902 and the one before that since 1838, and has been a warning light because of the dangers of the Rip, the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay. It reminds us of the lighthouse at Udu Point but the continual bashing of the waves on the rocks.

We all need a reliable light don't we?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Have a peaceful Christmas

May all men and women of goodwill in Fiji have a peaceful, even if frugal, Christmas this year.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Picasso's drawings

Yesterday was the first day of Advent and the theme was 'hope'. One of the lectionery readings was about turning swords into ploughshares.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Prayer for Fiji

It is a day of prayer for Fiji today.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

lamenting - Fijian lele - a poem and a song

from w
As the lurching and cruel words in Fiji continue to cause fear in the community and we pray earnestly for common sense to prevail, I am reminded of words from a poem by Yeats and a song by Leonard Cohen. In Fiji there's a song genre called lele which means lamentation, which can mean a loss of love or more. I certainly feel very saddened by the turn of events and pray for people who are in positions of power to turn around the situation, away from a lopsided, divisive and dangerous pathway.

Part of a poem by Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Leonard Cohen’ song Hallelujah

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah Hallelujah, Hallelujah etc.

Meanwhile sit under a tree and read a book

a cartoon by Michael Leunig. Make up your own title. I thought at first he might be reading a Travel Warning but...whatever....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Does the media beat up stories?

Does the media beat up stories?

From Peceli

What is the truth behind the morning news stories? On the TV, on the radio, there is all this talk about Fiji and other countries such as Iraq and Lebanon, and it’s always sensational and about death or threats. Stories from Tonga last week. A story about Fiji this morning. We heard that the Australian ships heading for Tonga will now go back to be near Fiji!

On our morning TV we saw Alexander Downer, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking again, saying there is clear evidence that Commodore Frank Bainimarama is planning a coup in the next couple of weeks.

Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes in Fiji said that a total number of ten politicians, civil servants and former military officers are now under investigation for allegedly inciting the Army Commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama to act against the government.

Police Commissioner Hughes reveals that intelligence received has confirmed that these people have been actively involved in exploiting the military and advising the RFMF on its ‘clean up’ campaign.

Following the Fiji Police Commissioner, Hughes’s statement, Downer said that Fiji's justice system should be allowed to do its job and he supports the role of Andrew Hughes. Downer said Fiji police should do their work and if they feel they have charges to bring, then they should do that, and prosecutors should take those matters up and they should be considered by the courts. Downer said it’s not for the army to intervene in the legal processes of a country.

My view is that if the Fiji President was strong enough, we wouldn’t have got to this stage. He should have spoken up clearly and say threats are not on. The President, with his vanua power and his position as President is the one to stop this continuing trouble. Seems like lots of people just do not know what they are doing. Fiji is in a wilderness and needs strong direction. The spirit of the vanua of Fiji is haunting us now and surely wanting us to do the right thing.

What do you think? How can the current situation be solved?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fiji Budget passed and a confusion of loyalties

from W.
A confusion of loyalties

Today in Suva, the Budget passed the first stage in the Lower House. In this process, there has been much discussion about loyalty to party, to the Multi-Party Cabinet, to the nation's future. For some politicians there was certainly a problem about choice of which loyalty comes first.

from Fijilive:
House passes 2007 Budget
Wednesday November 22, 2006
Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes and his deputy Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau today voted for the 2007 Budget while only 22 Fiji Labour Party members voted against. The four Labour Cabinet ministers who were present in the Lower House also voted against the Budget. The Budget was passed with 40 affirmative votes. Five FLP ministers were not present in the House when the vote was taken.
We each have to decide which of our loyalties comes first. We have various situations and institutions that demand our loyalty and concern. At times this becomes a big headache as various demands do not sit comfortably side by side.

This is so in Fiji as anywhere.

As a mother my first priority and loyalty is my children and their children. Other people might put their prime loyalty to their job, such as a soldier in the army. In Fiji this year there seems to be many demands upon the people's loyalty - towards family and tribe, towards an institution such as the army, towards a political party, towards a rugby team or the old school network.

Here is a list of some things that may demand our loyalty and attention, and they don't always sit well with one another:

1 one's own survival and health
2 family
3 religious institution
4 job and the 'boss'
5 the next generation and the future
6 a political party leader
7 government of the day
7 identity as member of clan/tribe/vanua
8 the law and legality
9 ethnic group
10 nation
11 the wider world - neighbours in the South Pacific
12 the health of the planet
13 God

Okay, back to Fiji politics and the day of the Budget. Let's get on with an opportunity to move forward instead of dancing on thin ice and continuous squabbling. To use another cliché, let's see the bigger picture.

I guess I am happy when the little turtle is happy - political parties are rather small when we look at the Pacific Ocean and inhabitants.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Survivor 14 in babasiga land

From Peceli

Survivor 14 in babasiga land

Story from the SBS Australia Fijian Radio

I listened to an interview today of one of the Labasa families who are employed for the Survivor 14 filming in the Vunivutu area of Nadogo, Macuata. Look North certainly becomes a reality now when millions and millions of dollars are being spent to make the series in Fiji at the present time.

The lady who was interviewed works as a cleaner for the film company and there are fourteen of them tidying up the small temporary houses. She was lucky to be chosen she said. Her husband is related to Tui Nadogo. They live in Labasa town. She is from a very distant little isle of Ono-i-lau and they have five children. Her husband works in the Post and Telegraphs in Labasa.

The applicants for the jobs had to have references when they applied and she had previously worked in Morris Hedstrom store. She said they work fifty hours a week at $3.50; an hour and so far she has purchased a television, a mobile phone, a washing machine and paid the school fees for the children.

This is an example of how an overseas investment such as Survivor 14 impacts upon the local people, not only the landowners and shopkeepers and transport but ordinary people.

Fiji English Dictionary - how to purchase

from w
I found the details on the Fiji Times advertisement for the book.
Available at Fiji Times $22 special offer

There are 690 pages, with 18,000 carefully selected words, detailing English as it is spoken in Fiji, including common Fijian, Hindi and other words which are used daily when Fiji’s citizens speak their common language. Included is the meaning, pronunciation, and often the derivation of words. Sample pages are given on the Fiji Times website.
D — first page (PDF - 158KB)
K — first page (PDF - 183KB)
N — first page (PDF - 230KB)
All sample pages: D, K & N (PDF - 565KB)
Hard Cover
RRP: $38.00
Fiji Times Intro Price: $32.50 VIP
Soft Cover
RRP: $28.00
Fiji Times Intro Price: $22.50 VIP
Note: additional charge for registered postage.
For enquiries about mail order, call Foto Ledua on + (679) 322 1657 or email
I looked at the sample pages and realize that there are many Fijian and Hindi words included, so it is not strictly a Fiji English Dictionary at all. It's more like a 'common language, mainly English, as used in Fiji'.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Update on effects of Nukualofa riots in Tonga

from Peceli
It is very unfortunate that people have lost their lives in the riots and fires in Nukualofa, Tonga. We have many Tongan friends here in Australia, New Zealand and overseas and it is almost unbelievable that such a thing has happened. Our prayers go to the people of Tonga, especially in the town of Nukualofa.

from Reuters
At least six bodies found after Tonga riots: police

November 16, 2006

We searched the burnt building and we found six body remains NUKU'ALOFA (Reuters) - At least six bodies were found in the riot-torn Tongan capital on Friday as rescue workers searched buildings and shops torched and looted during violence in the South Pacific island kingdom the previous day.

Soldiers and police cordoned off streets in central Nuku'alofa where up to 80 percent of the buildings were destroyed by the pro-democracy protesters.

"We searched the burnt building and we found six body remains," assistant police commissioner Unca Faaoa told Reuters.

"Only six but other buildings are still being searched."

Uneasy calm in Tonga after yesterday's riots

from Peceli,
The string of political problems even reaches the usually placid and calm islands of Tonga. There have been stirrings for some time now because of the great gulf between royalty and commoners. The build up of anger and resentment has been there even before the king died recently. The Parliament has to know this and make adjustments.
Michael Field, an experienced Pacific journalist writes about the situation.

The website of the Tongan newspaper article is here.

Uneasy calm in Tonga
UPDATED 10.10am Friday November 17, 2006 from New Zealand news.

NUKU'ALOFA - An uneasy calm settled on Tonga's capital this morning after it was reported the government bowed to a wave of violent pro-democracy protests. The AP news agency reported police and troops had taken control of central Nuku'alofa.

The apparent breakthrough came after a day of tension in the capital, where rioting crowds overturned cars, looted and set fire to shops and offices, and stoned government buildings including the prime minister's office. Osi Maama, editor of the Tongan Times, had told Newstalk ZB earlier this morning that the rioting was continuing and had spread outside the capital. Chinese-owned shops were being targeted and the police had been powerless to help, he said.
Tonga's government imposes curfew on capital.

Posted at 8:23am on 17 Nov 2006
Tonga's Government has imposed a curfew on the capital Nuku'alofa after last night's riots which left a large part of the business district in ashes.Tonga Broadcasting Commission says virtually all of the Chinese stores in downtown Nuku'alofa and many areas of Tongatapu were torched.

Its Political editor, George Lavaka, says the only thing moving in or out of Nukualofa this morning are either police or the army. "All the schools are closed today, some of the government departments, the development bank, and defence have stopped school children from going into the main centre today, because it has been cordoned off. We don't know when we are going to have an official estimate of how much damage but they will be going into the millions."

George Lavaka says the army are guarding their building after demonstrators threatened to burn it down yesterday.
Radio New Zealand International

Friday November 17, 2006
By Angela Gregory, Claire Trevett and Agencies

Tonga's capital of Nuku'alofa was ablaze last night after a democracy protest erupted into a riot involving rampaging youths. Mobs roamed the streets, overturning cars, smashing windows and setting fires while police watched. Property owned by Tonga's royal family and Prime Minister were targeted by scores of angry youths, many fuelled by alcohol.

Journalist Mateni Tapueluelu told the Herald from the city streets at 8pm (NZ time) that hundreds of Tongans were roaming the inner-city area smashing windows, trashing businesses, looting goods and setting fires.

Firefighters stood by helplessly as flames raged. "I would say 80 per cent of the CBD is burning."
The violence broke out after thousands rallied in the capital demanding a vote on proposed democratic reforms to the country's semi-feudal political system.

When the vote did not happen before Parliament went into recess for the year, youths began trashing the Prime Minister's office, the court house and other public buildings. The riots had quietened by 8.30pm and a proclamation was issued declaring the downtown area to be "under surveillance" to ensure large groups could not gather.

Dr Sevele had gone on Tongan radio appealing for calm.
As well as the Prime Minister's office, the youths attacked public buildings including the Magistrate's Court, the Public Service Commission Office and the Ministry of Finance, plus the Nuku'alofa Club, offices of the Shoreline power company, the ANZ Bank, the Pacific Royale Hotel and other businesses.

Tapueluelu reported that the rioting and burning continued after the Government held an urgent Cabinet meeting and agreed to the people's demands that 21 MPs be elected democratically by 2008.

At present just nine of the 32 MPs are elected by popular vote. The rest are appointed by the King.

It appeared many of the rioters were not aware the Government had apparently acceded to their demands - because their leaders were not able to communicate with them as the kingdom's AM radio station was off the air.
A blogger from New Zealand has an interesting article about Lopeti Senituli an activist - sometimes called a 'Tongan Revolutionary'. He spent his younger days in Fiji and the writer calls the SCM there (a Christian group) Marxist! The blog article is found here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

coconut oil as fuel - a safer subject than politics

Coconut oil as fuel is used in the Solomon islands for boats as a substitute for diesel, but it takes ten coconuts for one k - so that is just too many. A TV program -SBS probably - ran a story on this a couple of days ago. I'm posting about a safe subject - if I talk about Fiji politics, steam comes outa me ears!

I wonder how much work is done in Fiji about bio fuels such as coconut oil. Apparently they tried using it at Sigatoka and also in Taveuni. A researcher, Morris wrote about it in Island Business.

Morris says a coconut oil-producing operation in such a localised setting would be a viable alternative, “with people in rural areas processing coconuts around them and producing oil they will use themselves, so they no longer have to buy diesel from the mainland”.

A project in Welagi, a village on the Fiji island of Taveuni, demonstrated that coconut oil could be used in a diesel generator. The project is highlighted in Cloin's paper, not only because it proves the technology works, but also because of the special challenges it presents.

As part of a French-funded project, the village obtained a small copra oil press that enabled it to produce oil from dried copra.
I suppose you can fuel your boat, go on a picnic, use some oil to fry the fish, and even have a back massage.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Protecting the chicks ----- I wish!

Lai and Mahend,
or maybe Lai and Frank,
maybe anyone of us or everyone of us.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Part-Europeans in Fiji

A comment on one of our blogs was a request for information about a Part-European family in Vanua Levu.

The part-Europeans in Fiji are sometimes called kai loma (group / in the middle) or more politely vasu (relative o Fijians) and are descendants of white Australians, Americans or Europeans who established themselves in Levuka, on the plantations of Vanua Levu or the outer islands of Fiji during the 19th century, and took Fijian wives. By 1881 there were around 800 part-Europeans; today there are about 13,800.

Rob Kaye writes: Part-Europeans generally speak fluent English and can at least understand Fijian, if not speak it fluently. Conversations may be carried on in both languages simultaneously, with jokes made in the tongue that best suits the story.

Many still live in Levuka or Savusavu and of course Suva. Part-European families in Vanua Levu in the early 1900s include the Eyres, Millers, Simpsons, Whippy’s, Pickerings and their descendants are still in Fiji. An example of the ancestor of a Part-European family is Fiji is the story of Mr James Brand Simmons.

From The Cyclopaedia of Fiji 1907 p. 282

Mr James Brand Simmons was born in London, October 5th 1849 and educated in London. On leaving school he was apprenticed to the sea, and served his time as a midshipman in the White Star Aberdeen line. He holds a master’s certificate and has had various commands amongst other is that of the Colonial Sugar Refiing Co’s schooner, but principally sails his own. Arriving in Fiji in October 1870, he started business in Levuka and opened up a cotton plantation on the Dreketi River during the American war. On its ce3ssation, and the consequent fall in price, he planted sugarcane and erected a mill. The cane was of great density, the largest ever obtained in Fiji being got from it. Sugar fall to 8 pounds per ton, through the influx of beet sugar to the Australian market, he turned his attention to cocoanuts and cattle, spare land having in the meantime been planted with a the nuts. Mr Simmons owns two estates, one on either side of the Dreketi River, 1572 acres freehold – Matikovatu and Vataboro – of which 400 are under nuts in various stages. Coffee and coacoa also grown on the estates. Cattle are reared largely on both, as also are pigs and goats. Fijian labour is employed.

The two pictures are of William Miller in Savusavu, taken about 1900 and Albert Miller today.


A website provides an excellent discussion on identity from the Part-European perspective.
Fragmented Identities Among Postcolonial Fijians Extending the Hand of Kinship and Respecting the Right to Choose.

Lucy de Bruce is from the Kailoma community of Fiji and lives in Australia. She is interested in researching Kailoma social history - how they fit into Fiji's race-conscious society… (and) she ponders the question of the Fijian identity and its relationship to equitable citizenship. After the 2000 coup her brother wrote a paper To The Hearing Committee on Fijian Unity. A Position Paper Submitted on Behalf of the Vasu/Kailoma Interest Group of Fiji. This is given on the website.