Tropical Cyclone Winston

20 April 2016

Tropical Cyclone Winston caused widespread damage in Fiji in February 2016, and also affected some areas of Tonga. It is the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded to make landfall in Fiji, causing 44 deaths and affecting up to 350,000 people.

Australia worked closely with the Government of Fiji to support its immediate response and is now assisting the Government as it transitions to the longer term recovery and reconstruction phase.

Foreign Minister Bishop visited Fiji on 13-14 March. She met with Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel deployed as part of Operation Fiji Assist on HMAS Canberra, toured Koro Island and Rakiraki, and met with Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, and Disaster Management Minister, Inia Seruiratu.

Australia's Humanitarian Assistance to Fiji

To date, the Australian Government has provided AUD35 million of assistance to Fiji in response to Tropical Cyclone Winston. This includes the latest assistance package of AUD20 million to provide ongoing reconstruction support to Fiji, aimed at returning life to normal, giving Fijians back their schools, medical clinics and livelihoods.

Australian support will be underpinned by the principle of ‘building back better’ which will rebuild infrastructure and communities that are more resilient to natural disasters. This support will focus on developing skills and maximising employment through the rebuilding of schools and health facilities destroyed by the cyclone, replacing damaged medical equipment and restoring water and sanitation services. Australian support will also repair damaged markets, including building accommodation facilities for women vendors, enabling farmers and market vendors to return to work.  

This early recovery support builds on Australia’s already committed humanitarian support of AUD15 million.  This support reached over 200,000 people affected by the cyclone, including by providing life-saving supplies such as clean water and hygiene, and shelter, access to education and medical facilities and protection services for those most vulnerable. This assistance was complemented by extensive ADF support.

In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) consisting of 21 doctors, nurses and medics provided emergency medical care for more than 1,700 people in Fiji. Australia is supporting Fiji’s Ministry of Health to restore its cold chain system for vaccines which was damaged in the cyclone, to ensure that essential and life-saving vaccinations can continue to reach communities. Australian funding is also providing medical equipment and supplies to ensure that pregnant women can continue to give birth safely, pregnant and breastfeeding women continue to have access to essential health care and women’s reproductive health needs are met.

Australian support has also focused on education, working with Fiji’s Ministry of Education to get Fiji’s children back into school as quickly and safely as possible. 497 schools in Fiji were damaged, destroyed or otherwise affected by the cyclone. Working with partners UNICEF and Save the Children, Australia is providing temporary learning spaces, educational materials, water and sanitation, psychosocial support and school feeding programs to the most affected schools. On 1 April, Australia committed a further AUD1 million to repair and restore 26 cyclone-affected primary schools and provide literacy and numeracy kits.

Through Australia’s ongoing bilateral aid program, Australia has provided grants of over AUD1.5 million to local non-government organisations (NGOs) to contribute to the relief efforts by providing communities with water, shelter, food, seedlings, medical services, psychosocial support and other much needed relief items. These NGOs are also helping to restore water and sanitation services and provide child-friendly spaces in communities.

Approximately 1,000 ADF personnel were also deployed to Fiji under Operation Fiji Assist 2016. HMAS Canberra, Australia’s largest navy vessel, arrived in Fiji on 1 March carrying approximately 60 tonnes of emergency relief and humanitarian supplies, MRH-90 helicopters and approximately 760 ADF personnel including engineers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers who worked with Fiji authorities to conduct engineering assessments and commence recovery efforts.

ADF personnel removed debris, restored critical infrastructure, supplied fresh drinking water and delivered lifesaving supplies to the islands of Koro and Taveuni. ADF assistance to villages and settlements on Koro Island included distribution of food rations, hygiene kits, drinking water and shelter kits; repairs to seven primary schools, one high school and two medical centres; and restoration of the water supply.

ADF aircraft were used to provide life-saving supplies and equipment to the people of Fiji. Seven MRH-90 helicopters facilitated personnel and supply movements, and C-17 and C-130 flights delivered more than 520 tonnes of humanitarian supplies and equipment.

HMAS Canberra departed Fiji on 25 March, having successfully completed its first operational deployment. The ADF deployment to Fiji under Operation Fiji Assist formally concluded its mission on 19 April 2016 to coincide with the end of the State of Natural Disaster declared following Tropical Cyclone Winston.   For almost two months, at the request of the Fiji Government, the ADF provided extensive life-saving supplies, equipment and expertise to the people of Fiji.

Travel advice

Please visit the Smartraveller website for the latest Australian travel advice for Tonga and Fiji.


If you would like to contribute to Australia’s response to Tropical Cyclone Winston please consider donating to an agency working with affected communities. Often the most effective way to support the relief effort in countries affected by disasters is by providing cash donations through organisations responding to the crisis. The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has a list of ACFID-accredited non-government organisations. ACFID also has detailed information about public donations.

More information

Follow @AusHumanitarian on Twitter and the Australian High Commission in Suva's Facebook page for more information about Australia's humanitarian response.

Photos: Australian assistance to Fiji following Tropical Cyclone Winston

Created with flickr slideshow.


Video: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop updates the House on support for Pacific nations

Our thoughts are with the people of Fiji. Updating the House on the Government's support for Pacific nations devastated by Cyclone Winston.

Posted by Julie Bishop MP on Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Video: The ADF and High Commissioner Margaret Twomey visit Koro Island

Operation FIJI ASSIST (TC Winston): Koro Island aid and assess...

On Saturday 27 February 2016, Fijian and Australian officials and military personnel flew into cyclone devastated Koro Island to deliver relief supplies and meet with the local communities. Elders from the Koro Island village Sinuvala, welcomed the Australian High Commissioner, Margaret Twomey, together with Fiji's Minister of Sport and Youth, Iaisenia Tuitubou, and Commander Joint Task Force (JTF) 635, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Hill with a moving traditional 'Sevu Sevu' ceremony as a show of gratitude.Koro Island's District Officer escorted the visitors to the village of Nasau where a makeshift hospital and crisis centre headquarters are located to discuss villager's immediate and long term needs. The High Commissioner and Commander JTF will provide the information gathered to Fiji's National Disaster Management Organisation to assist with planning the disaster relief response to help those affected begin to recover.

Posted by ADF on Operations and Exercises on Sunday, February 28, 2016


Video: ADF support to Fiji following Tropical Cyclone Winston

Last Updated: 20 April 2016
Fiji President Jioji Konrote thanks Deputy Commander JTF Scott Hill for Australia’s support following Tropical Cyclone Winston
Fiji President Jioji Konrote (left) and Margaret Twomey (right) supporting aid efforts in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Fiji President Jioji Konrote gives thansk to helicopter pilots.
Distribution of aid is occurring right across Fiji and Australian aid specialists have been deployed to help with response operations, including providing logistics support.
On 26 February the Australian Medical Assistance team began work in the Rakiraki area.
Australian High Commissioner, Margaret Twomey, with communities in Fiji receiving Australian aid. Photo: Australian High Commission, Suva
Relief supplies provided by Australian and UNICEF Pacific reached communities in Tailevu as the Fiji Ministry of Health delivered hygiene packs and water purification tablets. Photo: Australian High Commission, Suva
Air Force and Army working together to load a Multi Role Helicopter (MRH 90) onto a C-17 Globemaster as part of Operation Fiji Assist.
Air Force and Army working together to load a Multi Role Helicopter (MRH 90) onto a C-17 Globemaster as part of Operation Fiji Assist. Photo: Department of Defence.
Royal Australian Air Force pilots, Flight Lieutenant Simon Marshall (left) and Flying Officer Jake Nicholas prepare to land a C-17A in Suva, Fiji as part of Operation Fiji Assist.
Royal Australian Air Force pilots, Flight Lieutenant Simon Marshall (left) and Flying Officer Jake Nicholas prepare to land a C-17A in Suva, Fiji as part of Operation Fiji Assist.
An aerial view from the Royal Austalian Air Force C-17A Globemaster aircraft revealing widespread floods in Fiji caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
An aerial view from the Royal Austalian Air Force C-17A Globemaster aircraft revealing widespread floods in Fiji caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.