Fiji benefits significantly from Australian volunteers, receiving over 40 new volunteers each year. At any one time there may be up to 80 Australian volunteers in Fiji (some stay for two years). The Australian Volunteers [external link]program provides an opportunity for Australians to directly help one of their nearest neighbours and to make a positive contribution to development. The two-way exchange of knowledge and experiences can also lead to better development outcomes.
Volunteer assignment priorities in Fiji
- Improve maternal health and reduce child mortality
- Strengthen mental health service delivery
- Provide teacher trainers, curriculum developers, specialist teachers and health workers to improve services for people with disabilities
- Support sustainable development of community-based livelihoods
- Support improved policy and service delivery through government and civil society organisations
- Address the impacts of climate change and support environmental stewardship, especially through community-based measures
- Encourage broad understanding of disaster management and disaster risk reduction.
Job opportunities for students from Fiji's Special Schools in the tourism sector
Growing up, Afrana Khan did not have access to mainstream education. At the age of 16 Afrana enrolled in Lautoka Special School, but thought full-time employment would be out of her reach.
Life has since changed significantly for Afrana after she was taken on as a trainee in mid-2016 at the Radisson Blu resort on Denarau Island, Fiji.
This change is due in part to a collaboration between the five star Radisson Blu resort and husband and wife volunteer team, Tony and Kristyn Bashford.
The Brisbane couple are volunteering in Fiji's special schools as part of a long-term partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Australian Volunteers Program. Over a four-year period 23 Australians volunteers have been placed with the Ministry for Education to support the delivery of high-quality education to every Fijian student living with disability. Special education teachers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists have volunteered alongside their counterparts in Fiji to make a tangible difference to how people with disability learn and participate in the community. This is being realised through the enhancement of Fiji's special education staff capacity to implement Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students with disabilities and Individual Transition Plans (ITPs) beyond school.
Individual Education Plans have been introduced for all students across Fiji's 17 Special Schools. The plans support teachers to set customised learning goals for each student during their schooling.
Australian volunteers Tony and Kristyn have carried on this work by creating Individual Transition Plans that help students nearing the end of their studies to prepare to enter the workforce.
This approach has been a life-changing development for students Afrana and Shamane who, after undertaking traineeships as part of their transition plans, both gained employment at the Radisson Blu resort. Joining Fiji's workforce for the first time means both young women have gained independence and are now able to make valuable financial contributions to their families' incomes.
Julien Racine is the Hotel Manager at Radisson Blu and has been a driving force behind the hotel's partnership with Tony, Kristyn and the special schools.
"Radisson is big on responsible business and we aim to do whatever it takes to improve children's education," Julien says. "We know we are making a difference that helps many children who deserve it. We also know that we're supporting the schools where our employees are sending their kids so it is a little bit like looking after our employees too."
Both girls are excelling in their positions as part of the housekeeping team. Afrana recently won the 'Employee of the Month' award and in August was promoted to a self-checker, meaning she will not only receive a pay rise but will now work supervisor-free, a great achievement for someone who has only been working at the resort for a year.
"We can see some leadership in Afrana and we hope to grow her further to one day make her a supervisor," Julien says.
After the success of Afrana and Shamane's traineeships and subsequent employment, Julien is hoping to create a certification process for future students undertaking traineeships and is looking to engage other hotels in Fiji.
"They have the best interests of our students at heart. In fact that describes the staff that we have dealt with well," Tony says. "They are people with a heart."
While the collaboration is only young, there are hopes on both sides of the project that it will continue to grow and opportunities for students with special needs in Fiji will increase.
"We want to see it become sustainable in the three pilot schools and a start made to take it out as a package to the rest of the special schools in Fiji," Tony says. "This project has a great future with students, parents, teachers, employers, schools and for disability awareness. It shows that industry can make a profit and still have a heart."
Watch a video about this initiative
How to apply
More information, including applicant eligibility criteria can be found on the Australian Volunteers website