For an Australian onlooker, the scene in Suva’s Ratu Sukuna Park last Saturday was touching and a little embarrassing. Hundreds of Fijian families were putting coins and small notes into buckets being passed around as they sat listening to local rock bands performing for free.
Fiji’s ordinary citizens, most of them struggling to pay their own bills, were donating to help Australians hit by our disastrous bushfires. “We’ve raised about F$5000 [A$3800],” a volunteer told me late in the afternoon. Asked why Fijians were so moved, she gave the reply I’d heard from many others: “When Cyclone Winston hit us, Australian aid was the first to arrive.”
The link will be made more explicitly this year as the bushfire crisis subsides. But Fijian leaders are already making the point obliquely. A few days earlier, when prime minister Voreqe (“Frank”) Bainimarama farewelled the fifty-four Fijian military engineers sent to assist the bushfire fight in southeastern Australia, he mentioned that other soldiers were cleaning up from the latest cyclones of the season to cross Fiji islands.
“Today is a proud day to be Fijian, as our nation comes to the aid of the climate-vulnerable on two fronts across Oceania,” Bainimarama said. “As Australians battle the bushfire crisis and Fijians recover from cyclones Sarai and Tino, we are bearing witness to the powerful resilience of the Pacific spirit. I have long said that we are all in the same canoe when it comes to combating climate change.”
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