Fijian workers: volunteering in crisis
“To help someone in need is a selfless act and we tried our best to do this for the Lismore community to reflect the values we were raised with.” – Apenisa Marau, Fijian worker and volunteer
Fijian migrants teamed up with local state emergency services to help the community Source: Apenisa Marau via Facebook
The unprecedented flooding impacting northern New South Wales and Queensland has been devastating for local communities.
In the northern rivers region of Lismore, two major flooding events within four weeks left a pathway of destruction. With many homes lost, recovery can feel out of reach.
But in those dark clouds of loss, one group of men – not local to the area – provided a ray of hope for the community. And a reminder the human spirit is alive and well and help is at hand if you need it.
In early February, just before the first flooding event, a group of 45 Fijian migrants arrived in the surrounding suburbs of Lismore with a plan to work at the local abattoirs.
On Monday 28 February, as the town started becoming inundated by water, a group of the Fijian workers swapped their shifts at the abbatoir to help state emergency services save people stuck in their homes and clear out damaged properties.
The Fijian team provided much support and even sang while they worked. Their hymns providing a soothing relief to both the exhausted locals working with them and the frightened people being evacuated.
Through the lens of a seasonal worker
By Apenisa Marau, Fijian worker and Lismore volunteer
Suva’s Kshatriya Hall closed in on me and I panicked. My vision blurred and I was embarrassed that my eyes were brimming with tears. I turned away suddenly to wipe them and hoped no one in ANZ’s MoneyMinded session noticed.
A week earlier, I received a call from the Fiji National Employment Center (NEC) advising I was a successful candidate destined for Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). The two-year long wait was finally over. At the time I sunk to the floor of my Tavua home in disbelief, my family around me. Even now, I still feel so lucky to have the opportunity to provide for my family.
Two months later, I arrived in the in northeastern New South Wales town of Lismore, ready to work with a group of other Fijians hoping to build our future.
Soon after we arrived though, the town was devastated by floods. Although we experience flooding events in Fiji, this was like nothing any of our group had ever seen.
We got a call from a council representative requesting to borrow our truck. To his surprise, the truck arrived with all 45 Fijian seasonal workers - meat packers at the local abattoir – ready to lend a hand in any way possible.
To help someone in need is a selfless act and we tried our best to do this for the Lismore community to reflect the values we were raised with.
We sang as we worked to lift spirits, helping comfort the local community we call home for now.
In early March, another life-changing call came through. ANZ Director Financial Institutions Group Ben Moceiwai surprised us all by gifting us tickets to watch the Fijian Drua team play Super Rugby against the Waratahs at the CBUS Stadium on the Gold Coast.
We were so grateful. ANZ had provided our group with MoneyMinded training before we left Fiji and it was nice to see their partnership followed us here to Lismore.
ANZ’s guests at the Fijian Drua game in the Gold Coast with player Mesulame Dolokoto Source: Apenisa Marau via Facebook
Financial literacy skills
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, border closures restricted international visitors and prevented people moving between states in Australia. The Federal Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme helped to fill regional and rural labour shortages where the recruitment of Australian workers had been unsuccessful, connecting Aussie businesses with labour from nine Pacific Islands and Timor Leste.
Workers gain valuable experience, see what Australia has to offer and earn Australian award wages while helping businesses during peak seasons. It’s a win-win solution for Aussie business owners and Pacific workers.
According to a Pacific Island Countries report, Fiji has the most advanced education and skills training systems in the Pacific Islands region. This makes its residents perfect candidates to travel oversees for work and provides an opportunity to earn money to send home to their families.
For some workers, this may be the first time they have opened a bank account so completing ANZ’s MoneyMinded program helps ensure their wages are efficiently saved and used.
The group of Fijian workers who volunteered in Lismore completed ANZ’s MoneyMinded program before arriving in Australia.
Supporting the Drua
In mid-February 2022, ANZ Fiji announced its sponsorship of Super Rugby Pacific’s newest team, the Fijian Drua.
ANZ Fiji Country Head Rabih Yazbek says the bank is pleased to support these Fijian teams.
“Fiji is bursting with sporting talent and it’s no secret rugby holds a unique place in the hearts of Fijians,” he says. “By providing more opportunities for young Fijians to showcase their rugby skills, we’re contributing to deepening regional relationships through sport.”
ANZ’s guests with at the Fijian Drua Super Rugby match Source: Apenisa Marau via Facebook
Keasi Tora is Fiji Events Manager at ANZ
Fijian workers: volunteering in crisis
Community & Purpose
Pacific workers picking financial skills, fresh produce