The Australian Volunteers Program in Solomon Islands has welcomed the 750th Australian volunteer since 1964, when government-supported volunteering began in the country. The Australian High Commissioner, Roderick Brazier, referenced this milestone in his welcome to visiting ships, HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Toowoomba, as one of many examples of the strong bonds between the people of Australia and Solomon Islands.
The 750th Australian volunteer who will continue this friendship is Dirk Heinz, who has just started his assignment as a legal officer for the Public Solicitor's Office (PSO) in Honiara. The PSO is an independent public office established under the Constitution of Solomon Islands to provide legal aid, advice and assistance to people in need and comprises three units: criminal, family, and environment and landowners.
Dirk is working with the Landowners' Advocacy and Legal Support Unit (LALSU) to provide legal services to landowners in the area of environmental law, as well as encouraging broader law reform, community legal education, and skills-building among environmental professionals. LALSU is also dedicated to educating customary land owners about their rights under environmental and resources law.
"It's an awesome feeling to know that I've joined a 750 strong team of dedicated Australian volunteers who have done, and are still doing, amazing things here in Solomon Islands. I'm thrilled to be working with my Solomon Islands colleagues to increase community awareness of the environmental impacts that activities like private logging and mining are having on their traditional lands," said Dirk.
Dirk is on assignment with LALSU from August 2018 to June 2019, and will help improve enforcement of environmental law and access to justice for customary land owners. Dirk will also work with LALSU staff to improve operations within the organisation.
Australian volunteers in Solomon Islands have contributed to locally-led development since 1964, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteer roles have ranged from occupational therapist trainers to provincial education mentors, with partner organisations as diverse as the Red Cross and the Solomon Islands Basketball Federation.
Find out more about the Australian Volunteers Program.
Follow Australian Volunteers on Twitter