"Twelve months as an Australian volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga set my life on a new path." – Jarrod Troutbeck, returned volunteer and co-founder of Climates.
By Jarrod Troutbeck
I had been working for four years as an economist in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance in what I thought was my dream role – both engaging and flexible enough to allow for my jaunts out to explore the world. However, I felt unfulfilled and that I had more to give.
Fascinated by the notion of living within the bounds of what one's own land can produce, I wanted to learn from our island neighbours how they lived in relative harmony with each other and with nature. This drove me to spend a year volunteering through the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program in the Economics Department at the National Reserve Bank of Tonga.
At the end of my assignment in 2015, I had only begun to scratch the surface of appreciating the connection between community and nature, and the way people depended on each other. By sharing times of hardship and celebration, the Tongan people showed me how they build resilient communities that have a fighting chance to tackle even the most colossal of environmental threats. I wanted the Australian public to appreciate what makes Pacific communities so strong. I reckon we can learn a lot from each other and if we work together, we can do more to protect our region from the impacts of climate change.
Upon returning from my assignment, I co-founded Climates, a community of people committed to establishing friendships and strengthening people-to-people connections across our region so that we can build climate resilience together. We work alongside communities in the Pacific who are driving ground-breaking work in climate adaptation, mitigation and advocacy.
Australian volunteers continue to play an important role in the Climates story. We recently partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to recruit our first Australian volunteer, who is helping to strengthen our capacity to connect with inspiring people in the Pacific. We have also engaged Australian private sector partners, acknowledging the increasingly important role they play in resourcing the rate and scale of change that is needed. We do this with humility and compassion, elevating the voices of our neighbours who too often go unheard and enabling their messages and lessons to be shared by all.