Improving independence for people with disabilities in Fiji

A woman in Fiji collects water
A woman in Fiji collects water. Photo: Harjono Djoyobisono

Between 2014 to 2016, Lyn Hatton, Jason Kuczek and John Brookes volunteered to improve the awareness and independence of people with disabilities in Fiji.

Lyn was as a program advisor with a pilot program aimed at creating inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The pilot, called Include Disability Employ this Ability (IDEA), was managed by the Spinal Injury Association in Fiji with representatives from other disabled people’s organisations including the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation and the Fiji Deaf Association.

The pilot focused on improving the financial security, independence and confidence of people living with disabilities.

Long-lasting employment solutions

Lyn recommended a disability employment service be created to provide inclusive programs and resources, and advocate for social and policy change at government, educational and corporate levels.

She also advised that a range of financially sustainable social enterprises be created. After considerable research, IDEA set-up a cleaning service staffed by people with disabilities, called IDEA Clean.

IDEA Clean has expanded since Lyn’s assignment, with the Donut King in Suva employing the women and services of IDEA Clean.

Spinal Injury Association building Suva Fiji
The Spinal Injury Association in Suva, Fiji. Supplied: John Brookes
IDEA clean participant using environmentally friendly cleaning products
IDEA Clean participant Koini Marama uses environmentally friendly products in Fiji. Photo: Lyn Hatton.

Creating political and social awareness

Australian volunteer Jason Kuczek worked as a financial management trainer with the Fiji Disabled People’s Federation. He worked within the administration team, liaising regularly with its board of directors, providing mentoring and support, and running training sessions. 

Jason facilitated a review of the Federation’s constitution and worked alongside his colleagues to interpret funding agreements, upgrade the accounting platform, and ensure best accounting practices. 

Determined to influence broader change for people with disabilities, Jason encouraged staff to take part in parliamentary sittings and send regular letters to relevant ministers.

This created social and political awareness for people living with disabilities, and led to the parliament bringing forward a bill to discuss the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Social media for change

Just a few months into his assignment as communications manager at the Spinal Injury Association, John trained staff to create and maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts for the organisation and developed media network lists.

John worked alongside his local colleagues to increase the presence and visibility of the association across digital and print media.