I started my career in banking on 2 May 1978, when I was 18. It was just two years before Vanuatu achieved independence.
Before independence in 1980, we were divided. We were governed by British and French administrations in an arrangement known as the Condominium. Those who spoke English used the English banks; those who spoke French used the French banks. There was competition among the ni Vans (native Vanuatu people) along those lines.
After independence, customers had the freedom to choose their bank and ANZ was one of the first English banks that started employing Francophone (French speaking) staff.
To me, independence means freedom - freedom from those two governments. But it took a few years for us ni vans to work together.
Vanuatu’s independence was declared at midnight on 30 July 1980. That was when the French and British officially handed over control - then they left.
I lived and worked for the bank on the island of Espiritiu Santo at the time. It is my home island.
I didn’t celebrate the first independence on 30 July 1980, because on Santo we had a rebellion at the time. Jimmy Stevens, from the Nagriamel movement, led the rebellion. They thought Vanuatu wasn’t ready for independence.
Santo was cut off from the rest of Vanuatu. For four months there were no shipments or air transport - nothing coming into Santo. We were closed off from everyone.
The nagriamel movement arrested all the police officers, the government officers. There was nothing operating. All the people from other islands had to move back to their islands. We had to stay at my home village; we had to close the branch.
It lasted four months.
Then Papua New Guinea sent troops in to help restore peace to the island.