Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mangroves in the Labasa area

From Peceli

There are two main types of mangroves in the Labasa area of Macuata province: veitiritiri which are small scrubby trees and veidogodogo which are bigger trees. Saving the mangroves swamp area and little rivers especially in the Macuata coastal are vital for the breeding of sea shell fishes crabs and salt water living trees. Amongst the roots of these mangroves live varieties of edible eels.

I was disappointed with a sawmill close to my area in Vatuadova. I saw all the dust and rubbish covering the shoreline. This place used to be where many men and women went to gather shellfish, crabs, and small fish for their families. The area is now polluted. The Tabia River also carries so much mud downstream from the damage of timber logging.

Along the Labasa river there are also mangrove areas but because of the need for housing and villages many mangroves have been removed. Naseakula area is now all houses where once we as children used to gather fish and crabs.

Even next to our beach in Nukutatava the neighbours cut a whole section of mangroves and that has caused the tides to rush in and the crabs and little shellfish have gone. The photo was taken when this part of the mangroves supplied us with many oysters. Wendy and my sister-in-law Evia collected oysters on the day the photo was taken. The other two pictures show a typical scene of mangroves roots in a river environment and a new plant growing in the sea.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A favourite New Age poster

I used to have this poster on my kitchen wall, but it's rather dilapidated these days. I always liked the pic (this is only half of it) and the message.

We do carry our ancestor's genes, the adventures of our childhood and travel, the good interrelationships as well as painful experiences, and for me, my connectness between Fiji and Australia.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fijian land - how we got (some of) our land back

From Peceli

People talk passionately about land in Fiji and the subject is complex. When it is said that Fijians own 80% of the land, remember that the 10% freehold is often the best and other 10 % are Crown Land and was obtained largely by funny dealing over 100 years ago, e.g. an island for guns.

Many Fijians do not own land at all or it is mountainous and difficult to access. Fijian are registered in the Native Land Commission in their respective mataqali (clan) and yavusa (tribe). But there are many mataqali or yavusa who have landless because there land have been taken by the European people as freehold land eg Mago Island in the Lau group. The real owner of the Island are still in Vakano Lakeba. This also happened in Labasa, Lautoka and Suva and other places.

The NLTB (Native Land Trust Board) has managed Fijian land for over sixty years. ALTA (Agriculture, Landlord and Tenants Act) ties up tribal land mainly in thirty year leases, a whole generation. The government authorities did not listen to the worries of the indigenous people and the legislation was passed with little alteration. There was a march through the streets of Rakiraki against ALTA in 1969.

In 1971 our family wanted some land back as some leases were expiring. I went to the Land Tribunal Court and won four pieces of land - about 150 acres out of 2000. We obtained sugar-cane leases for members of the family and started development projects. Not many Fijians at that time got their leased land back. It was only in the last ten years that the landowners have realised the importance of getting land back for their growing families.

Lease money from about a hundred Indian tenants comes into our mataqali annually. and this money is used to pay for housing, development and education for the children. NLTB used to take a 25% commission but now it is 15%.

The relationship between landowner and the neighbouring Indian farmers has been very good over the years despite the on-going anxieties about lease renewals so very few Indian families have had to leave the Vatuadova area to resettle elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kate's take on Labasa

from Wendy

I accidentally found a really cute website by a volunteer living in Suva. Kate writes spasmodically but with humour, intuition, on her site. Also, perhaps check out her letter from Fiji. Here is her take after a visit to Labasa!

'The last time I wrote was about going to Lautoka, a sugar making town on the west of the island I live on. Since then I have been to another sugar making town on the other main island of Vanua Levu (big land) called Labasa. Again amazing how different another place can be when it is only an hour’s flight north east of Suva. Labasa is basically a town with one main road that leads to the sugar mill and small roads coming off it where people live. It is dusty and drier than Suva. It also appears to be a muslim town with people wearing more traditional muslim attire. I went with a Rotuman, Fijian and Rabian (from the island of Rabi - looks Rotuman). Not only were we deaf and therefore signing in public but we were also different in skin hues from the majority of Indians. I found the staring hard work to ignore. People can stare a bit here in Suva because you do stand out a bit but the intensity was of a different level in Labasa. People would turn their heads, stop what they were doing, open their mouths, even make eyes at you. I mean we were a good looking group of people but I found it hard to take and even when I stared back or made an expression as if to say “yes?” the staring continued unabated.

'The staring is balanced out by the friendliness of people though. Everyone says hello and being deaf as well you get cheaper taxi fares and even free entry into nightclubs. I am sure by the end of the weekend, the whole of Labasa town knew that there were 4 deaf people from Suva staying at the Takia Hotel and that two of them went to a night club on Saturday night.

'The lone cinema shows only Hindi movies. Costs $2 in the stalls or $3 in the circle. It took me some time to decide which seat to buy! Remember in the old days, at the back of the cinema where you entered the dark space, they had a curtain which was pulled to block out the light? They still have that curtain in Labasa!'
I have included Kate's link in our sidebar.

Also Promoting Suva, which is a good blog, positive rather than critical, of life in Suva today.
AND... Peceli just this morning said, how about another blog with pics and drawings mainly about Geelong, and I said, 'Oh no, I have lots of things to do,' but in about ten seconds, there it was - 'Geelong Visual Diary'! The link is also in the sidebar!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

In memory of Laisiasa Masidugu

This Page Is Dedicated To

Rabaul War Cemetery
Roll of Honour
The Roll is in alphabetical order

MASI, Pata (Private), PN3526. A.C.M.F. 3 New Guinea Bn. 1. B. Australian Infantry. 28th June 1946. W.

MASIDUGU, Private, LAISIASA, 1336. 1st Bn. Fiji Infantry 13. A. Regt. Fiji Military Forces. 29th March 1944. Age 22. V.

From Peceli

Tomorrow is Anzac Day here when we remember the soldiers who gave their lives during the World Wars.

I always had a low key celebration to honour my big brother the late L Masidugu who died in the battlefield in the Solomon 62 years ago. I still vividly remember the day when they brought the news of his death to my father when I was a little boy. My father said it was honourable to die in the battlefield like a warrior.

Then I was dreaming to become a soldier and die like him in the battlefield but when I grew up I missed all the opportunity to become a soldier because I went to Davuilevu Bible School and the Theological Institution and became a Methodist Church Minister.

My family in Labasa gave me the L Masidugu honour scroll to keep for my grandchildren.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bula si'a, bula vinaka, namaste, hello!

Fijian as spoken in Labasa

From Wendy

In Labasa dialect bula si’a means hello, or bula re is commonly used in Bua, west of Labasa. In the lingua franca – or Standard Fijian, - based on the Bauan dialect, people say bula vinaka as a greeting.

The Fijian language is part of the Malayo-Polynesian languages and Fijians are proud of their language and local dialects and speak these in preference to English which is promoted in Fiji, taught in schools and is the language of business.

So the local Labasa Fijians usually speak their own dialect in their homes, amongst other Fijians, in welcome and farewell ceremonies, though Standard Fijian is used in church services and in radio and newspapers.

The Labasa dialect belongs to Labasa, Mali, Wailevu (specifically in Naseakula, Wailevu, Vatuadova, Mali, Vuo and Matailabasa). In this dialect the letters t and k are often elided, so meke (dance) becomes me’e, or me, and the word katakata (hot) becomes a’a’a’a! The letter q may become k, so yaqona (kava) becomes yakona. Vakamalolo (sitting dance) may become va-malolo. The Labasa dialect is similar in most ways though to the other dialects of Vanua Levu and Taveuni.

When our children were small and we lived in Vatuadova and Nukutatava they picked up the local dialect as their first language. Our eldest boy, when he was four, used to amuse the people when he gave a talk in the church service, telling about David and Goliath, all spoken in the loca dialect! Kindergarten introduces children to English and Hindi as well, and then all schooling is in English. In the school playground the children often revert to the family dialect, but in multiracial schools they may use English to understand one another.

The Fijian people of the Labasa area usually need to be able to speak in two or three languages at least – their family dialect, Standard Fijian, Hindustani, and English so it is rather a big ask to be fluent in all! Likewise many Indian residents in the Labasa area speak two or three languages. It is remarkable how well they do in conversing with one another, switching from one language to another according to need. So, bula si'a. Bula vinala. Namaste. Hello!

Dr Paul Geraghty is well-known as an expert on the Fijian language and suggests that the Fiji media look further at language use than the current obsession with the 'colonial' language of English.

Our various identities

from Wendy

The Vice President of Fiji, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi speaks with clarity about Fiji as a multicultural society. He speaks with idealism amidst a variety of views as we look towards the upcoming election in Fiji. I find that I waver between idealism and realism and get tangled in the process.

I know that I have to move amidst contradictory identities at times (in any order, every other day) - that of a writer/ feminist/ Australian/ mother/ idealist/ Christian/ passionate Fiji watcher/kin to Fijian family. Also, I accept that other people prioritize in different ways.

The last line of his speech, as reported in today's Fiji Sun, has significance - about how we manoevre our lives through various identities.

Forget the past, says Ratu Joni


Nothing is gained from repeating the past. Speaking at the launch of the book – Let’s All Celebrate – Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi said Fiji must learn from the past and begin to create an alternative way. “There is nothing to be gained from repeating the past. Fiji has been wounded and scarred by recent events and while some still bear the pain and the hurt there is always hope while there is life,” he said. “That is the message this book has for me. “Out of the mouths of children comes wisdom, insight and vision. It is inspiring as it is uplifting for it conveys the optimism and zeal of youth. The youth of this beautiful country that is our home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.” He said that diversity as reflected in multiculturalism in Fiji was a fact of life and was about recognition of and respect for everyone’s background and identity.

“Whether one likes it or not Fiji comprises many different ethnic groups and no one is superior or better than another. Each co-exists and interacts with each other. They bring richness, vibrance and vitality into the lives of other cultures. This opportunity for engagement is the wonderful blessing of living in such a country as ours. “For our differences should not overshadow our common humanity. There is nothing to be gained from repeating the past. “There are limits of which we need to be aware. Above and beyond that are the ties of nationhood that bind all of us citizens of this country.

I am both a Fijian and a citizen of Fiji, but I am a citizen first.

“We need to remember that sometimes. I believe the rationale behind the concept is the creation of an environment, of spaces, that allow us to be at ease in moving in and between the multiple identities we possess.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wailevu village in Macuata

From Peceli

There are several Wailevu villages in Fiji, because the word ‘wai levu’ means a river. The Wailevu I know is a few kilometres west of Labasa town. Our mataqali (tribe) belongs to Wailevu, our head the Tui Wailevu. There are five yavusa of the vanua of Wailevu: they are Yaudigi Sauniduna Matana and Nabuani and Wailevu.

When I was a young boy Wailevu village was known as having an abundance of food and crops because it is beside the Wailevu River. With the richness of the river you almost always could catch salala which are small fish, even with your bare hands. Also there was always kuka (small crabs) and mana (a river kind of lobster) and they almost came to the kitchen ready for cooking. I often visited my relatives in Wailevu Yavusaiati Clan and the Tui Wailevu (father of the present Tui Wailevu.)

The houses in this village have names. The former Tui Wailevu’s residence was called Vanuabalavu. The name has been changed to Natuvakaca for the present Tui Wailevu, Rokodewala Niumataiwalu.

In the centre of the village today is the Methodist Church Talatala’s residence which is called Nabunabuna and close by is the huge Methodist church which is a concrete building. Also there is a newly renovated hall. During the 70s the building of this church was a special project and I was involved in organising work teams of young men to raise funds for the project.

Many of the Wailevu people have sugar-cane land leased out to Indian farmers, and many of the Fijians from Wailevu also have sugar-cane. Some still live in the village but others have moved out to built their own settlements on their land. This is called tu vakagalala.

In an article in the Fiji Sun, this was written about Wailevu.

Indo-Fijian farmers in the Wailevu sector are part of the village. They have a very good relationship with the people of Wailevu and have helped in the development of the village. And the Turaga Tui Wailevu, Ratu Rokodewala Niumataiwalu, has asked all the headmen to renew leases on their land. He has set an example by renewing all leases on his land. The Tui Wailevu has made a plea to all chiefs around the country to follow suit. He said the land problem in Fiji should not be solved at the political level and should only involve the landowners and the tenants. (FS)

In the photograph are Neimani Lala with some of his family at their home in Wailevu.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Naseakula village and rugby

from Peceli

Naseakula village has changed from beautiful Fijian traditional bures to concrete iron roofed houses. I want to write about Meliki Baleicakau and rugby.

I still remember when I was young boy we used to bath or fetch water from Naseakula creek during the drought season Our home was called Valeniveilewai and Meliki’s home was Mavule not very far from one another. Their kitchen was close to where the big lovos were made for feasts and there were many functions in Naseakula. When a cow was killed the boys would get the cow's bladder, clean it and blow it up and kick it around as a football. Barefoot of course. Meliki’s father was a very strict man and his name was Tavusa and he was a very strong man.

In those days soccer was the main sport for boys and rugby was just starting then. Soccer was played in Labasa town every Saturday then. “We always thought that only the people who are well educated should play rugby,” Meliki said. Because of the slow development in Labasa, it wasn’t until around 1950 that people started to take rugby seriously. In 1951, Nasekula Rugby Club was founded.

A decade later, national team captain Apakuki Tuitavua paid a visit to the Friendly North, and the following year, Meliki became the first player from the Labasa area to win a Test cap.

Because Naseakula is close to the town, some of the village boys got into trouble because the families got lease money and they did not have to work hard for their education. It was good when they played rugby to use their energy.

Meliki Baleicakau is the father of national 15s and 7s rep Jope Tuikabe. Jope Tuikabe who has won national honours at both 15s and 7s. Tuikabe played for Nasekula during his early days. This year Jope is a Fiji champion and has played in the Hong Kong Sevens.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday Diary

From Wendy

We had made no real plans for Good Friday, except for the commitment to play the organ for an 8.30 service in Geelong, Peceli not going up to Melbourne to the Fijian church at the same time. We would drive to the beach, do some sketches of tee-trees and rocks. Anyway, a phone call alerts us that one of our friends has to fly to Fiji Friday night because her mother suddenly died. We must go to her house with the church group on Friday afternoon.

So yesterday morning - Good Friday - Peceli makes coffee at 6.30 for us. The music at the 8.30 a.m. service is restrained and the people quiet. There are no flowers in the church. No chatter. The moving dramatic narrative is told once again.

I discover that the top keyboard which had been on a kind of ‘almost mute’ for three weeks was because I had accidentally hit a tab that took off all the sounds bar one. Something like someone had pressed ‘mute’ on my new computer and music wouldn’t play! A guy at church told me where to check and fix that one. I had been in a panic about my new computer having a fault!

I buy the ‘Age’ with the weekend supplements. The Lebanese man’s fish-and-chips shop is open. Doesn’t he ever take a break? Respect the holy day? I make a morning tea of pancakes and coffee and read the paper.

After rice and curried tinned tuna lunch we watch a forum on TV on ‘Happiness’ with various experts. It is genetic says one. Well, my father was always cheerful and singing, until one day, his best friend died at 45, and my Dad suddenly went into shock, because a thought hit him, what if it had been him with Mum and five kids left without support? I guess we all get shocks at time about the frailty of this life. Dad recovered after four weeks and was back to his cheerful self.

We drive to Werribee to meet with another Fijian family to go together. The plan is for four families to meet at 4 p.m. at the house of the bereaved woman. Money is collected as is the custom. It’s raining very heavily and the freeway is busy with Easter holiday-makers. Cars have their lights on and I become anxious because I can hardly see.

The house in Footscray is full of visitors including another family from Geelong. I cry with my friend then we are all silent, sitting on the pandanus mats. Formal speeches are given, a prayer, and a gift of money - $300 I think - from our group. Things are done collectively in the Fijian way, not individually.

We talk quietly about her mother in Fiji. A woman of 73 and a healthy woman, only ill for a few days. Yaqona is prepared and the men and a couple of women partake, but I move to the second room to play with a three-month-old baby. We are given a nice meal of cassava, chop suey, kokoda, curry, rice, tea and hot-cross buns. We stay about four hours before driving back to Geelong, this time without rain. Our garden will be soaked well which is excellent because we had dug up several areas in the garden this week.

We talk about the TV program about ‘What is happiness’ and decide that contentment doesn’t come with a ten-step program, but often unexpectedly as a gift. Today we have been happy to be with people we know well, to have fulfilled an obligation to a bereaved woman who is a close friend. This Good Friday has been done well.

What makes us happy?

from Wendy

Is happiness a choice or something we are just born with? How important is money, family, friends? When is it just hedonism or even selfishness? Is it a state of being euphoric, everything seems to be in harmony? A phenomenon called ‘flow’?

We watched an SBS TV program yesterday, Insight. Jenny Brockie’s forum included many ‘experts’ on the subject of “Happiness’. The transcript is here.

Opinions were varied, some saying that it depends upon self-esteem, network of family, relationships, to be valued by others. A violinist implied that it was moving with the ‘flow’ with other musicians. Someone said that happiness was genetically based – some people are optimistic, others not. Though many of us fall in heap when things go drastically wrong, as they do in our lives, most of us can get up again.

Well, it made me think a bit about myself as I seem to be more gloomy these days, withdrawing more from friends, anxious about the world and safety. I am not jolly like I used to be! Peceli seems to be naturally optimistic and happy, laughs a lot, and has a wide network of friends and family, sings old Fijian songs or Hindi bhajans in the car while I stare at the rain swishing down making the road less safe.

It is not about money and possessions then because we live frugally but we can get most of the things we need.

Sometimes ‘being jolly’ is a kind of acting perhaps, in an attempt to create bonds with people. If we are gloomy with others, it would be rather miserable wouldn’t it? What about honesty though?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Houses in Labasa, then and now

These days it is rare to find a real Fijian bure in a town in Fiji such as Labasa. Thirty years ago there were many. We lived beside the sea at Nukutatava with three small bures - this was in the 70s. These days Labasa town has many new cement block houses, many on stilts, perhaps for the breeze, or in case of flooding! The pics are a view of Labasa from Delailabasa hill where the mansions are, a small painting of a typical bure in earlier times, and a pic of our beach place in the 70s.

It is a major project these days to built a traditional style bure because it is difficult to access the materials such as bamboo and reeds because sugar-cane farms have taken over so much of the land.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tribewanted - adventures ahead on Vorovoro Island

from Peceli and Wendy

In a phone call this morning our relative, Tui Mali, told us the exciting news that a project is planned for Vorovoro Island for the next three years. It's an adventure experience for visitors to come to Vorovoro with a hands-on idea of survival, appropriate development and interaction with the Mali Island people. It seems Christmas has come all at once! Two hundred fishing nets from the Taiwan embassy. A container of computers and books from Geelong, and now this unusual project!

Check out the website here.

We think it is a great idea because it is so different from the resort tragics. It is appropriate, environment conscious, and Tui Mali will be a delightful person to work with. We love Vorovoro island and have been there many times and when we lived at Nukutatava beach when our children were small, we would wake up to view the sun rising over Vorovoro and Mali islands.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Story from around the kava bowl

from Peceli
Here is a story from around the kava bowl.

On the way from Rakiraki to Ba Hospital a small utility truck was carrying an empty coffin. A hitchhiker on the side of the road past Vaileka town called for the truck to stop, then he hopped up onto the back of the truck close to the coffin.

It started to rain and the hitchhiker thought about not getting wet, so his solution was to hop inside the empty coffin for shelter.

A little later on the road close to Tavua bridge another hitchhiker wanted a ride so the driver said to him to hop up onto the back of the truck.

Good, the fellow thought, it will be a free ride for me and I don't have to pay a bus or taxi.

On the way the second hitchhiker noticed the coffin was shaking and then its lid started to open and he could see five fingers stick up in the air! Is this a dead man or a ghost?

He was so frightened he jumped off from the back of the truck into a cane field and hurt himself.

The first man who was in the coffin box did not notice anyone else riding in the back of the truck.

When they reached the Ba hospital the truck driver asked the man, 'Did you see another man who also came in the back of the truck?'

'No I didn't see anyone.'

Later they saw another truck arriving outside the hospital with an injured man who was shouting to everyone that a ghost made him break his leg.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Shalini Akhil and 'The Bollywood Beauty'

from Wendy
I met Shalini at the Melbourne Writers' Festival lst year, bought her book, 'The Bollywood Beauty' and read it straight away. It's a fun read and particularly interesting for readers interested in Fiji and migration.

Her blogsite reveals a young intelligent woman, and there's a great interview with her on a hot ashes site where Shalini is very honest about her search and understanding of identity about being a kai-India from Fiji. I noticed that in the scenes where the main characters are in Nadi-Lautoka for Christmas, there is absolutely no interaction with the indigenous Fijian community and wondered why not.

Children's Sunday in Fiji

from Wendy
Every year on Palm Sunday, the children in Methodist churches in Fiji take over the pulpit,the choir - singing in four parts, the prayers, passing microphones to each other, learning their parts by heart, dressing in neat white dresses, shirts and grey sulus. Here are some photos of Children's Sunday at Naseakula village Labasa. I haven't heard of this custom in other places. Usually it's Christmas time when children perform an Advent or Christmas play and are noticeably upfront in the Australian churches.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fiji people in Australia

from Wendy

Here are some stats on Fiji-born migrants in Australia. I guess this excludes those on visitor visas, students, people on medical visas, over-stayers. Note the confusion people have with classification - Fijian, Indian, Indo-Fijian, Fijian Indian etc. The notes come from a department of DIMEA - Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs. The stats show that indigenous Fijians are fewer than migrants from the Indian diaspora, if you pardon that term!

The Fiji-born Community in Australia

Historical background
By the mid-1950s there were over 2,000 Fiji-born persons in Australia. Fijian migration to Australia became significant in the late 1960s. The Fijians were attracted to Australia by the prospect of better employment, higher wages and improved welfare services. By 1966, over 60% of Fijians living in Australia had settled in Sydney and over the past two decades this pattern of settlement in Sydney has continued.

Migration accelerated in the post-independence decade of the 1970s and by 1986 there were 14,749 Fiji-born persons in Australia. Following the military coups and political unrest in Fiji in 1987, Australia received an influx of Fijian Indians seeking refugee asylum. By 1991 the Fiji-born population in Australia had increased to 30,149.

The Fiji-born comprise several ethnic groups, Fijian, Chinese, Indian, European, Rotuman and others, all of whom are part of the migration stream to Australia. Most Fijians in Australia are of Fijian-Indian ethnicity. About 53% of Fijians in Australia are Christians (mainly Methodists), 38% are Hindus and 8% are Muslims.
Almost all Fijians are proficient in English. Many of the Fijian-Indians speak Hindi or other Indian languages at home. Over 80 percent of Fijians in Australia are under fifty years of age. The Fijians retain strong social and economic ties with their relatives in Fiji.

The community today

Geographic distribution
The latest Census in 2001 recorded 44,040 Fiji-born persons in Australia, an increase of 19 per cent from the 1996 Census. The 2001 distribution by State and Territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 27,080 followed by Queensland (7,550), Victoria (7,080) and South Australia (770). Of the Fiji-born in Australia, there were 20,570 males (46.7 per cent) and 23,470 females (53.3 per cent). The sex ratio was 87.6 males per 100 females.

Among Fiji-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 69.6 per cent and the unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 63.0 and 7.4 per cent respectively. Of the 25,740 Fiji-born who were employed, 44.9 per cent were employed in a Skilled occupation, 33.9 per cent in Semi-Skilled and 21.2 per cent in Unskilled.

At the 2001 Census, the rate* of Australian Citizenship for the Fiji-born in Australia was 86.3 per cent. The rate for all overseas-born was 75.1 per cent.
* Includes adjustments for people not meeting the residential requirement for citizenship, temporary entrants to Australia and underenumeration at the Census.

The main languages spoken at home by Fiji-born people in Australia were Hindi (54.4 per cent), English (24.9 per cent), and Fijian (9.0 per cent).
Of the 33,060 Fiji-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 94.7 per cent spoke English very well or well and 4.1 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.

At the 2001 Census the major religions amongst Fiji-born were Hinduism (19,770 persons), Islam (5,770 persons) and Western Catholic (4,500 persons).
Of the Fiji-born, 3.5 per cent stated 'No Religion'. This was lower than that of the total Australian population (15.5 per cent)

In the 2001 Census, the top three ancestries that Fiji-born persons reported were, Indian (25,000), Fijian (7,450) and Indian-Fijian (1,620).

Jointly produced by Multicultural Affairs Branch and the Economic and Demographic Analysis Section of DIMIA. All data listed in this summary are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. sources for the Historical background are available at

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Live simply

From Peceli

For many years I had a sticker on one of my second-hand cars which read
Live simply that others may simply live. That saying has been going around for thirty years I think but it is still okay.

I went to the tailor yesterday because the zipper in my best pants was broken. He said it would cost $10 to fix it, so I thought, Okay I’ll go shopping instead. At the nearby Opportunity Shop I found a new blue shirt for $4.50 and new looking pants for $4 so I bought them. I had to go to a Rotary club meeting last night in my Italian friend Jo’s restaurant so wore them with my bright red tie. I got fined for being so well-dressed!

One of the advantage of being in Australia is when you go shopping for clothes you can buy a man’s suit for $3000 if you want to, or as cheap as $10.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mali Island School and fishing nets

from Wendy

Lusiana Speight wrote an article in yesterday’s Fiji Times about the Mali Island school’s request for fishing nets and the Taiwan embassy’s response. Ask and you will receive! Here is what Lusiana wrote – (adapted, shortened) I wondered about the gift of two containers of candy! What size were the containers?

WHILE students in urban areas enjoy luxuries like the Internet, cell phones, swapping Compact Discs and going to the movies, others around the country can only imagine such fortune.Catching a bus to school each morning in a cleanly pressed uniform and shiny school sandals are something many students could only hear about from their cousins in town. Students from an island school located 30 minutes off the Labasa Coast are used to the hardships they have to endure.

As of last week, I had no idea Mali District School existed. With a roll of about 80 students in classes one to eight, the school relies on the Mali Island's natural resources for its very survival.Head teacher Lawrence Nikotemo wrote to diplomatic missions based in Suva seeking help for the school.He asked not money, but simply for fishing nets.

"Our school is a boarding school and there is a need for nets to help our boarders fish and sell some fish to buy necessities and rations for the boarders," Lawrence said.

From all his letters and persistence, the Kioa man was handsomely rewarded thanks to the Trade Mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan).Last week Lawrence travelled from Vanua Levu to Suva to receive the much sought after fishing nets from Taiwanese ambassador Sherman Kuo. The school was given a box of 200 fishing nets and two containers of candy for the students.

Selected youths from a nearby village will take the nets out each day to bring back fish to feed the boarders.

"We are working at having surplus fish brought in every day. This we sell to middlemen and use the money for other necessities of the school," he said. "We plan on buying stationery, basic food items like flour and sugar and other resources that we can now afford from the money made from the sale of fish. The villagers on the island are fully dependent on fishing as a source of income.

"The Mothers Club and the Parents Association is in a position to look after the maintenance of the old fishing nets," Lawrence said."The school has a small punt which the Parents Association and the Mothers Club uses to get fish for the boarders, now with these fishing nets, it will definitely be a boost for the school." The school caters for the children from the three villages of Nakawaga, Vesi and Ligaulevu that have sent their children to the school to board.

"We plan to develop the school and to have another boat to replace the small punt.“

On why he wrote to the Taiwanese trade mission, Lawrence said: "Well, I knew that Chinese and Taiwanese people are well-known for their fishing skills and people who love fish. "I knew they would have a soft spot for our request for the fishing nets."

Mr Kuo said,."The trade mission here receives a lot of letters from people, parties, groups and schools every day for assistance," he said. "When I came across the letter from Lawrence, I immediately saw a need to assist."

Lawrence said the school often faced water supply problems during dry weather.The school relies on a borehole for the children's welfare during tough times. "Our next request to other trade mission and to the Chinese Taiwanese mission is for tanks for our children," he said."But that is in the future, we must ensure our fishing project works out before we make other requests."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Logging in Fiji

from Wendy
This is an extract from something I am writing. The character, Ofa-Atu is an elderly Fijian woman, an expert in traditional medicine. I have placed her in Taveuni. She writes songs. An academic discussion on a similar topic can be found here.

Ofa-Atu remembered the time she wrote the song. Four foreign men had come with measuring sticks and paper titles and set up their camp on her clan land. They used chainsaws on the dakua, damanu, and kauvula trees that had been there since their ancestor god Degei and his grandsons settled the islands of Fiji. The new road cut away the medicine trees, the koka, dabe, dawa; to cut away the untidiness, they said. They slaughtered the forest, just as an animal was dismembered, until the bush and the satin-black silktail birds that nested on the ground and the little white-eyes in the upper canopy were silenced. Alas, the chiefs had consented because they were promised fine houses and new boats. But they were given weak, crooked, first-cut timber to build shacks and the boats drank up petrol week after week.

When heavy rains fell, the land started to slip. The riverbank sludge moved along the corrugations as the casuarinas wept. The good topsoil fell in and settled until mud oozed along the shore, the sea bilious with dead creatures. From the logging upstream, mud bled into the lagoon.

Twenty-two young Fijians and two Europeans came to protest and Ofa-Atu joined them, camping beside the largest tree as a group of white-eyes hovered overhead. They lost that battle. Others did not complain about it or heed the future, because they had joined a new church where their pastor foretold that the world would soon end and the saved would ascend directly into Heaven. They let the tangled plastic, the leftover pipes, can-rings, dead stumps be. When tourists came to this place they did not say, 'How intricately organized is the culture,' but 'How dirty the beach is!'

Ofa-Atu knew that the beautiful bay of her clan was formed by a mystical turtle stretching her long neck as she nibbled and sucked at the land. However Ro Vonu, the sacred turtle, no longer came to lay her eggs in the sand.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Labasa River the uciwai of Labasa

from Peceli

Have a good look at this picture, and what do you think? It's so beautiful but to me it looks so depressing because I know what it used to be like. These days it needs so much attention to look after this great resource the Labasa river and I wonder what the Labasa Council is doing to use this resource to its best advantage.

The picture of the Labasa River brings back memories of my upbringing in my young days We lived close to where the photo was taken. There was an abundance of food from the river and the land and many coconut trees were standing there. The river is tidal so salty and the tides go very far up the river past Korowiri to Vunimoli village. Mangroves beside the river provided plenty of crabs and prawns. The name of one place where we used to go was Bouma, close to the Labasa Hospital.

On the Nasea side of the river was St Mary's school and hostel and Nacula village where our house was. There were fruit trees such as kavika (kind of white apple), dawa (fruit with jelly like flesh) oranges, pawpaw, mangoes, breadfruit, yams, vadra, suluka for smoking. We picked up crabs such as kuka which are small crabs in the summer rainy season. We used to eat sugar-cane but it was different from the crops that were grown by the Colonial Sugar Refinery. It was a bigger kind of cane.

The Labasa River starts as several streams in the hills in the centre of Vanua Levu, Ului Batini and Ului Valili. and these join up to make the Labasa River that reaches the sea where there are many mangroves.

The fish we caught in the Labasa River were for our everyday needs, not for selling in any market. The women and small children used nets, and the men and older boys went down to the mouth of the river to catch larger fish. Then later on the many fishermen started selling fish to people of Labasa. I still remember the senior Douglas Simmons in Namara selling fish.

There used to be only one bridge over the Labasa River for the sugar train. Today the main bridge links the shopping area to the development area of the hospital, Macuata House, Namuka House and Ro Qomate House.