Australian volunteers improve human rights in Solomon Islands

Strong partnerships between the Australian Volunteers Program and local organisations are helping improve human rights in Solomon Islands. 

Australian volunteer Jake Marusich worked as a Criminal Unit Support Lawyer with the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) in the capital, Honiara.

Jake mentored his colleagues, helping strengthen the rule of law and increase society’s access to justice. He travelled to legal offices in other provinces to build stronger relationships with lawyers there.

Building relationships “important in every part of the world”

“The biggest skill I’ve picked up is relationship building and management," says Jake.

“Whether that’s offering a sports class or developing confidence in the office so that staff ask for support, this assignment has shown me that building relationships is a necessity. It’s important in every part of the world.”

Jake’s assignment built on the work of two Australian volunteers previously assigned to the PSO.

Australian volunteer Jake Marusich with local colleague Clifton Ruele v2
Jake Marusich with colleague Clifton Ruele at the Public Solicitor's Office, Honiara. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
The Public Solicitors Office in Honiara Solomon Islands
The Public Solicitors Office, Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

Jake’s local colleague, Clifton Ruele, Senior Legal Officer at the PSO, says Jake’s support allowed him to deliver better legal services.

“Jake’s been really helpful. He helped us in lots of cases, he came into the courts with us and he learned how our system works. We will miss Jake a lot,” says Clifton. 

Strengthening the community with martial arts

In the capital city, in an effort to strengthen connections with local people, Jake ran free jiu-jitsu classes for community members.

“At first I started just teaching my colleagues,” says Jake.

“That grew to a mixed general class, a women’s class and a self-defence class.

“I heard a story from a woman who was attacked when she was walking home one night, she said she responded instantly with something she’d learned in the class and he ran off.”

Jake Marusich teaching martial arts in Honiara Solomon Islands.
Jake says running free jiu-jitsu classes for his community helped strengthen local connections. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Jake Marusich teaching a self defence class in Solomon Islands
Jake teaching self defence. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

Empowering women through storytelling

Rachel Bartley is a volunteer Media and Organisational Strengthening Mentor at Vois Blong Mere Solomon (VBMS), an organisation improving human rights by empowering local women through information sharing. 

Rachel mentors staff and helps with digital storytelling. She says that building strong relationships with her colleagues has been key to success in her role.

Australian volunteer Rachel Bartly with colleagues at VBMS in Honiara Solomon Islands
(Left to right) Vois Blong Meri's (VBM) Director Josephine Teakeni, Australian volunteer Rachel Bartley and finance officer Bere Usua at VMB's office in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono
Australian volunteer Rachel Bartley at VBMS Honiara Solomon Islands.
Rachel Bartley with finance officer Bere Usua at VBMS, Honiara. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

“I was clear with my counterparts about being frank and honest with me and treating me as an equal," says Rachel.

“I constantly ask for feedback… I love working with people and seeing colleagues become better than me. That’s the best marker of success and effectiveness.”

Jake Marusich was a volunteer Criminal Unit Support Lawyer with the PSO, Honiara, from May 2017 to May 2018. Rachel Bartley is a volunteer Media and Organisational Strengthening Mentor with VBMS; her assignment finishes in February 2019.