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F e a t u r e s


Fijian culture in the main operates on the premise of respect for your elders (ie anyone older than you) hence questioning their authority is considered disrespectful and needless to say, still very male orientated. The traditional view of the role of women is still very much confined to child-bearing, doing housework and almost total subservience to men. This viewpoint would be more prominent in communities/villages in the rural areas than in the urban centres like Suva. I wouldn’t classify myself as a strict adherent to that viewpoint however, it still had a profound effect on my early life experience and how I engaged with others.


What I have found challenging about my RAF journey so far was making that ‘quick’ transition from growing up in a developing country with all its cultural baggage, to living and working in a society that is almost the complete opposite to what I was used to. Early on in my career I had to unlearn and deconstruct my attitude, prejudices and ways of doing things (without losing my soul) to ‘fit’ into my new role as a RAF Officer. Not an easy thing to do but it had to be done. Needless to say, I think I’m coping well, however my


wife who is white South African (...now that’s another story!) keeps reminding me now and again when I falter. In hindsight what would have been extremely useful was if I had some cultural awareness training before coming to the UK.


With the increasing number of Fijians recruited into the UK Armed Forces over the last ten years (approx 2,145 Army;150 RN and 20 RAF) a couple of us (Fijian Servicemen) formed an organisation called the Fiji Support Network (FSN) in February 09. The aim of the FSN was to act as a conduit of information for Fijian Servicemen and their families in the UK Armed Forces in addressing issues and policies that affect them as Foreign and Commonwealth Servicemen.


Basically, the FSN would work in concert with the existing Welfare organisations like SSAFA, Families Federations, Unit Welfare Officers, Equality and Diversity and Family Support Teams at HQ Land, Air and Fleet in addressing issues (cultural, education, immigration policies etc) affecting Fijian Servicemen. On the flip side, it would assist future recruits joining the UK Armed Forces in providing cultural awareness training prior


to the start of Phase 1 training. It would also assist the various chains of command in providing guidance on cultural specific issues affecting Fijian Servicemen.


We launched the FSN in June 10 at Deepcut with representation from HQ Land, the Navy Families Federation and HQ Air. Our next project is to brief the Fijian Service communities in the UK and Germany over the next six months about the FSN and set up a website which would be the main medium of gathering queries and request from the Community and signposting them to the appropriate areas.


Whilst we are under no illusion as to the enormity of the task to get something like this up and running, what keeps me going, at least, is the fact that if we can make a positive difference to somebody’s life, even in a small way, it would be well worth the effort. The journey from the Fiji Isles to the British Isles would not have been in vain.


For more information on the FSN please contact Flt Lt Toga Loco, RAF Cosford, Tel: 01902 704636 (work) or email: 30008287@cosford.raf.mod.uk


www.raf-ff.org.uk


Envoy Winter 2010


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