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  • Men play instruments on a stage.
Vanuatu community shows Stawell its musical side for charity

When Stawell’s ni-Vanuatu community wanted to celebrate their country’s Independence Day and raise some money to send musical instruments and goods back home, a talent show proved to be the perfect idea.

A man draped in a Vanuatu flag dances around a stage.
The talent show doubled as a fundraiser for charities in Vanuatu.

The community group was formed by ni-Vanuatu men to support each other while they are away from their families and friends in regional Victoria as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme.

Junior Issachar, who works at the Frew Foods International meat processing plant in Stawell and is the Vanuatu workers' team leader and social coordinator, said the talent show was a chance to show the regional Victorian town a different side of themselves.

Their colleagues from other Pacific island nations, also in Australia through the PALM scheme, joined in, showing a little of their culture and traditions.

Workers from Samoa and Solomon Islands put on singing and dancing performances, as did a group of Fijians working in nearby Ararat.

"Within our community, we have a lot of talents, especially to do with music. And so we are just capitalising on this gift with the singing and playing instruments to give back to the Stawell community," Mr Issachar said.

"We’re not just here as strangers, we are also part of this community."

Event dedicated to helping others

Samoan men wearing traditional costumes dance on stage.
PALM scheme workers from Samoa also shared a traditional dance at the talent show in Stawell.

As well as throwing a celebration of Vanuatu's 42nd anniversary of independence, the big motivator for the event was to help communities back at home.

Mr Issachar said the community group hoped to have raised enough money to buy and send musical instruments and other goods, such as beds and mattresses, back to Vanuatu.

"In Vanuatu, most people in humble settings would sleep on a mat with no mattresses or stuff like that. Whatever we can collect here … we will ship it over and leave it to the churches back home. They know exactly within the communities where people are in need," he said.

Mr Issachar said the support they had received from the Stawell community for the talent show had been overwhelming.

A Solomon Islands man sings on a stage.
Organisers said the support from the community at the event was ‘overwhelming'.

The local soccer team and churches had welcomed the workers with open arms and have remained supportive throughout their time in Australia.

The Stawell Pioneers Soccer Club, where Mr Issachar coaches and several of the ni-Vanuatu men play, had helped them apply for a community event grant from the Northern Grampians Shire Council.

Their employer Frew Foods International, also the soccer club’s main sponsor for the 2022 season, helped the Vanuatu community with catering to make the event a success.

"To be honest, I couldn’t ask for a better place to come and work. This Stawell community has been a blessing since the first day we got here and I thank God for that,"  Mr Issachar said.

Mr Issachar encouraged other PALM scheme workers to put God first in everything they do, look for ways to share their culture and become involved in their Australian communities to make a difference in their families' lives back home.