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Australia Awards in Fiji

Australia Awards in Fiji

Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government. They offer the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development in Australia and for high-achieving Australians to do the same overseas.

Australia Awards are a whole of Australian government initiative bringing together Scholarships and Fellowships administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Department of Education; and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The Australian Government encourages women, people with disability, ethnic minorities, people living in rural areas and members of socio-economically disadvantaged groups to apply.

Since 2012, Australia has offered awards to 602 people from Fiji.

"The Australia Awards provide opportunities and support the next generation of emerging leaders from around the world."

How to apply

More information, including applicant eligibility criteria can be found at:

Alumni making a difference

Read about how the following Australia Awards alumni are using their skills and experience to make a difference in Fiji.

Ms Sisi Coalala: advocating for people with disability

Sisi Coalala says her father's determination and the opportunity to study in Australia gave her the confidence to break through the barriers her society places on people with disabilities. Today, Sisi works as the Disability Coordinator for the Fiji National University. Her primary role is the establishment of the Disability Centre for the university. She continues to inspire people with disabilities to pursue their dreams.

Read Sisi's story

Sisi Coalala is passionate about advocating for attitudinal changes towards people with disabilities in Fiji, particularly around including them in mainstream education and employment.

Sisi travelled the length and breadth of her native Fiji, helping visually impaired students to excel in mainstream schools. She is also the president of the United Blind Persons of Fiji Association, advocating for fairer employment opportunities for visually impaired people. She says the opportunity to study in Australia and her father's determination gave her the confidence to break through the barriers faced by people with disability. She continues to inspire many others to do the same.

Sisi gradually started losing her sight as a child. Nevertheless, her father was determined that she would achieve what she wanted in life. "Everywhere he went he always took me along," she recalls."I have memories of how trees and the moon looked … My father always instilled in me that I would have to learn to be with people who have vision," she says.

Sisi worked as a travelling teacher, supporting 27 visually impaired students in mainstream schools countrywide. She also worked with teachers to ensure they had the skills to support their students."If they don't know how to teach the child, they are left to fend for themselves," she says. Several of her students have excelled at school, topping their classes and going to university.

In 2013, she won the prestigious Australia Awards Scholarship at the University of Wollongong to study a double Masters in Human Resources and Commerce.

"I really enjoyed my experience in Australia … everything is accessible," she says. The teaching staff ensured that Sisi was included in lessons, asking other students to be mindful and explaining graphs and slides that Sisi was unable to see.

"They trained me on how I could move between my classes and home … how to cross the road … how to go into town for shopping" she says. "I also meet visually impaired Australians. It was quite interesting to see how they lived compared to us here in Fiji … it helped me make new friends," she says.

Armed with a world-class qualification when Sisi returned to Fiji, her employer increased her responsibilities. Her time in Australia also gave Sisi new ideas and greater confidence.

"I have been much more confident … earlier this year I was elected as president of the United Blind Persons of Fiji Association and the skills that I learned in Australia have gone a long way to prepare me for this role," she says.

Noting the way Australia supports employers to take on people with disabilities has inspired Sisi to use her new position to advocate for the adoption of a similar policy in Fiji.

"We want legislation that will require employers to take on people with disabilities if they have the qualifications … And, we want a grant that employers can use to help accommodate people with special needs in the workplace," she says.

There is still a long way to go, but Sisi remains determined. "My father passed away in 2004. I think he would have been proud of me as his dreams for me have been realized."

Today, Sisi works as the Disability Coordinator for the Fiji National University. Her primary role is the establishment of the Disability Centre for the university. She continues to inspire people with disabilities to pursue their dreams.

Mr Opeta Alefaio: safeguarding a priceless collection of Fijian history

Opeta Alefaio studied a Master of Business Information Systems (Professional) at Monash University in Melbourne. As long as he can remember, Opeta Alefaio, the Director of the National Archives of Fiji, has had the history bug. He recalls that as a child:"when it was time to go to the library, my friends would go for the Hardy Boys or novels and things like that and I would go straight to ancient Greece or ancient Rome or ancient China". His goal is to be the exemplar of the Pacific.

Read Opeta's story

As long as he can remember, Opeta Alefaio, the Director of the National Archives of Fiji, has had the history bug. He recalls that as a child:"when it was time to go to the library, my friends would go for the Hardy Boys or novels and things like that and I would go straight to ancient Greece or ancient Rome or ancient China".

By 2004, his passion for history had led him to a career at the National Archives, where he soon became determined to make a difference."We carry out record surveys of agencies … by doing that we've found records in attics, in outhouses, stored next to gallons of oil," he says."I want to raise the minimum expectation for my colleagues in the civil service who work with records, so that they have higher expectations of themselves, and I want to raise the minimum expectation of the archives – I think that minimum expectation should be world-class."

To achieve this, Opeta chose an Australia Award scholarship to study a Master of Business Information Systems (Professional) at Monash University in Melbourne.

"I chose Australia because the programme that I wanted to go to is a leading programme globally," he says."Just to have learnt from people that knowledgeable is something and I really, really, enjoyed my time there … it was very eye opening."

"Already the impact from that scholarship has been immense," says Opeta. Using what he learned in Australia, Opeta was able to convince the Fijian Government to boost staffing at the Archives by 50 per cent. This has allowed the Archives to tackle some critical long-standing issues, such as a vast backlog of deposits.

"When you have backlogs, it increases the chances of things getting lost, or misplaced," Opeta says. One of those documents was Fiji's Independence Order."From the time that I joined the archives it had already been lost," says Opeta. With greater numbers of staff, Opeta's team was able to secure this valuable national record."So, the Government's faith in our submission that we need staffing bore fruit."

The National Archives has also been able to salvage 2,000 hours of audio-visual footage."Fiji's national audio-visual collection was on the cusp of being eroded to the point of no return," recalls Opeta. He and his team successfully lobbied for funding to restore this priceless collection of Fijian history, digitize it and put it into a media management system at the National Archives for everyone to access.

Using this unique footage, the Ministry of Information created the popular television series, Back in Time.

"I just love it, and my friends love it … they can't miss the show," says Nemani Delaibatiki, Training Editor, Fiji Sun."I think it's great that they were able to salvage that footage, because if they hadn't, it would have been lost forever."

"Our goal is to be the exemplar of the Pacific," says Opeta."We're engaged in a twinning arrangement with the National Archives of Australia … we're going to benchmark against their practices, policies and systems … Then we want to take that further abroad, we want to take that to our Pacific Island brethren."

Last Updated: 28 February 2018
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