Lee Blake (AVI volunteer Training Development Adviser), Litiana Maivuniwi, Harry William, Marica Rasaqiwa, with ceramic wall hanging masks, in front of the Western Arts & Crafts Society’s building.Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Since 1967, Australian Volunteers International (AVI) has managed more than 200 volunteer assignments in Fiji; improving the capacity of Fijians and Fijian institutions, and peacefully managing the complex social and economic challenges underlying the process of development.
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Historically, AVI has sent skilled Australians to Fiji through various programs.
Through the Pacific Technical Assistance Mechanism (PACTAM) more than 15 technical advisors have assisted the individual Government Ministries in Fiji.
Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) is the main program through which AVI continues sending volunteers to Fiji. Initially, AVID assignments were focused in areas of governance and education. However, in recent years, the program’s focus has shifted to strengthen the capacity of local and regional non-government organisations
Main focus areas
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Improving mental health outcomes
AVI assignments are helping change the efforts made to improve education and advocacy in Fiji’s mental health sector. This has been done through training the local staff, providing support to local civil society organisations working in mental health to develop and implement peer support, social and recreational activities and income generating activities. Supporting the Government Divisional departments in the decentralisation efforts of mental health services and programs in Fiji is also a focus of the AVI assignments.
Improving education outcomes
Through assignments that provide teacher training and support curriculum development, AVI volunteers are helping improve education outcomes in Fiji. AVI is committed to the concept of inclusive education but also recognises the need for Special Schools for children that need additional support. AVI provides continuous support to the special schools in Fiji by helping to build capacity of the local staff and help develop more efficient systems and processes.
Improving livelihoods and rural development
Poverty mapping clearly indicates high levels of poverty in the sugar belt regions of Fiji in Western Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. This is also seen in the peri-urban settlements that have sprung up around Suva, Lautoka and Labasa. A diversified income generation approach is being looked at to provide people in these rural localities with alternative and sustainable sources of income as well as acceptable levels of social services and infrastructure. Currently the facilitation of viable sustainable farming practices amongst famer’s groups on Taveuni and in the Western division is being conducted. This is done through capacity building methods such as soil schools, model farms and farm visits as well as Arts and Crafts initiatives in the North have been developed.
Recognising the large number of Civil Society Organisations in Fiji and the current capacity of these organisations in influencing change in Fiji, volunteers have contributed to strengthening good governance in these organisations. AVI assignments support civil society organisations and institutions in Fiji with the development of strategic plans, financial and project management, mentoring and training local staff and helping to set up procedures, and write organisational guidelines.
Where we work
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Labasa, Savusavu, Lautoka, Nadi, Suva and Taveuni Island
Host organisation examples
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Fiji is an archipelago of 330 tropical islands. A former British colony, this South Pacific nation is rich in natural resources.
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Fiji is the most developed of the Pacific Island economies. By global standards, however, the economy is fragile, its geographic location vulnerable to natural disasters, isolation from major markets, issues associated with land management, political instability and an antiquated infrastructure. About 34 per cent[i] of the population are living below the poverty line. This figure is even greater in rural areas. Within Fijian society both women and youth face additional hurdles. Women are less likely to receive tertiary education, gain access to better jobs or be promoted. Youth unemployment, urban drift and homelessness are also increasing in Fiji.
Fiji has already met Millennium Development Goal 2 of achieving universal primary education[ii]. However, increasing rate of dropout in primary schools is a major challenge for Fiji. One of the main reasons for this increase is the inability of the students to afford education. Maintaining the curriculum level equivalent to the changing labour market is another challenge faced by the education sector.
Overall Fiji’s health sector faces problems relating to lack of financial resources to develop health infrastructure and staff shortages in key specialized areas.
Fiji has been able to reduce the under-five mortality rate, from 27.8 in 1990 to 23.6 in 2008[iii]. Similarly, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced from 41 in 1990 to 32 per 100,000 live births in 2008. The government of Fiji has also created a health service network that ensures most Fijians are within a one hour walk of a nurse or doctor. However, the quality of services varies significantly, and the health centres are concentrated in urban areas.
Like many developing countries, Fiji faces the key challenge of combating the pollution caused by increased urbanisation and industrial growth. Increased strain on waste facilities and poor industrial practice are of particular concern due to the fact that it can lead to contamination of the island's limited water sources.
Pressure on agricultural land has led to increasing erosion which in turn has increased land degradation and threatened the livelihoods of many farmers. In the future this is likely to lead to food shortages in the long-term.
[i] Millennium Development Goals 2nd Report, 1990-2009 Report for the Fiji Islands
[ii] [iii] ibid
Mental health survivors are among the most socially excluded groups in Fiji, with many individuals revealing the social impacts of mental illness - stigma, discrimination and social exclusion – as being worse than any medical symptoms of their condition.
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Host organisation profile
St Giles hospital was established in 1884 and is Fiji’s only psychiatric facility. Over the years, it has evolved from a containment facility to one offering treatment as these became available.
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Official Language: English and Fijian
Adult literacy rate: 93.7%
HDI index: 100
Life expectancy: 71.87 years
Adult HIV prevalence rate: 0.1%
GDP per capita: $4,800
Unemployment rate: 7.6%
Maternal mortality rate: 26 per 100,000 live births
Child mortality rate under 5: 17 per 1000 children
AVI placements: 221 (June 2013)
Last updated: 12/08/2013
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