In many Pacific nations, climate-related hazards are becoming increasingly common rendering many communities at risk of reduced access to infrastructure and other basic needs. Local humanitarian knowledge is vital to help prepare for and reduce the impacts of climate change for the Pacific community.
Australia Assists is the Australian Government’s humanitarian deployment program, deploying technical experts to the Pacific region to share capacity with local people who best understand the local context. Australia Assists deployee Jane, was in Fiji in 2022, as part of the Pacific Community (SPC) team helping develop more effective communications campaigns and materials for the Climate Change programme. Upon completion of her deployment, Jane passed the baton to Fijian national communications expert and Australia Assists deployee, Talei. With her wealth of experience in the Pacific region, Talei’s deployment exemplifies the effectiveness of local expertise in humanitarianism.
Communicating green energy and climate action
The Georesources and Energy Programme of the Pacific Community (SPC) helps Pacific Island nations increase their access to renewable energy. The Programme also works towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Pacific, particularly those relating to affordable energy, poverty reduction and climate action.
An independent review of the Georesources and Energy Programme identified a need for improvements in communications. Akuila Taka, the Deputy Director of the Georesources and Energy Programme identified the need for a communications expert who could help SPC “better communicate internally, and also to communicate with partners … on how to promote the work that we do not only in the Pacific Island countries, but also to the outside world.”
Sharing capacity to build expertise
Jane was deployed through the Australia Assists Program, supporting the Georesources and Energy Programme, and the wider SPC team in Fiji, to develop their communications. She published information about renewable energy and the importance of energy access in local and regional publications as well as social media.
“We weren’t communicating the work that we do a lot, even though we have done some excellent work in the region,” Akuila said. “Communicating those achievements and results and impacts was not there before.”
Jane was able to help the team grow awareness across the region for the Programme work and the ongoing needs of the communities. She was acutely aware that sustainability of the role was essential, and localisation was key.
“A very important part of this role was around mentoring,” she said during her deployment. “It’s growing expertise and just bringing new ideas that might benefit the teams who are working on the ground.”
Australia Assists deployee Jane (left) worked to build staff capacity in communications by sharing her knowledge and expertise with colleagues.
Empowering local leadership
At the end of her six-month deployment, Jane handed over the role of Communications Advisor to Australia Assists deployee and local resident, Talei.
With more than 20 years’ experience working in journalism and communications across health, disaster risk reduction, education and emergency preparedness, Jane had confidence that Talei’s expertise would be a valuable asset to the SPC team.
“Talei is a wonderful person with broad communications experience and bundles of energy. I’m quite excited to see what work will be presented and it’s great to see the role continuing with a local person,” Jane said.
Talei echoed that confidence and was very drawn to the humanitarian sector:
“The inspiration … is knowing the power that communications can have to support humanitarian work, to tell the true stories of people in communities that are impacted by crisis or events or are benefiting from an intervention. I have seen how my contributions to this work can deliver lasting impacts for affected communities.”
Since the start of her deployment, Talei has produced several videos and key documents showcasing the work of the Programme. She has worked with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and United Nations Development Programme, producing materials for COP 27, and managed communications at the inaugural Pacific Women in Energy Conference in October 2022. She was also the communications lead for the 5th Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers Meeting in May 2023.
Continuing the work of localisation
As the new Communications Advisor, Talei has been able to carry forward the work that Jane started with the team. “I have been able to assist the team to realise the ROI on good comms for their projects and how this can contribute to the overall success of our programme,” Talei said.
As a Fijian national, Talei is an example of local leadership in action. As well as this, she is furthering the move towards localisation by continuing to contribute and develop the offering from the local team.
“My deployment has contributed to strengthening localisation in humanitarian efforts because I am a clear example that locals have the expertise and context to contribute to this work,” she said.
“I see my deployment as confirmation to locals both Fijian and regional that we have the capabilities, skillset, expertise and experience needed to contribute effectively to a program like Australia Assists, wherever we are deployed in the region or the world.”
To discover more about our Localisation strategy or our work in the Pacific, read on.