As part of the reinvigoration of the Pacific Island, Australian and New Zealand Electoral Administrator’s (PIANZEA) Network and as an integral element of the current 3-year plan for PIANZEA, a BRIDGE TTF was conducted on the beautiful Island nation of Niue from 18 February to 1 March 2013.Niue has the 4th smallest population of any nation state (approximately 1400 people), with only Tokelau, the Vatican City and the Pitcairn Islands being smaller. But it still maintains a strong and complex culture and it is dotted with several small and picturesque villages. It also boasts a magnificent coastline, teeming with life.
Although there have been several TTFs that have been attended by participants from PIANZEA member states, a combination of staff turnover and retirements has meant that the number of accredited facilitators in the network has decreased in recent years. In order to address this and to work towards making PIANZEA “BRIDGE sustainable”, the PIANZEA Advisory Group (PAG – comprising delegates from Tonga, Vanuatu, The Republic of Marshall Islands, Australia and New Zealand) recommended that a TTF be conducted as early as possible in 2013. To that end, a group of 20 participants from Niue, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Vanuatu. Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Timor-Leste, assembled at the Matavai Resort Hotel in Alofi – the capital of Niue.
From the outset, the participants were engaged and proved themselves to be a very competent and creative group of trainee facilitators. The quality of their presentations and curriculum writing skills was excellent. Many of them were very thorough and enthusiastic about their individual country BRIDGE plans. Their ability to work respectfully with one another and create a supportive learning environment was very impressive indeed. In short, it appears that the future of BRIDGE in the PIANZEA Network is in very capable hands.
The group of facilitators for the TTF were Tina Noka from Vanuatu, Hagen Siosikefu from Niue (both of whom have a long relationship with BRIDGE in the Pacific and are very fine facilitators) and Ross Attrill from the Australia Electoral Commission.
In closing, I’d like to thank Elaine Elemani and Belinda McCauley from the PIANZEA Secretariat for their wonderful organisation of the event. I’d also like to register my gratitude to the government of Niue for their invitation to the Network to conduct BRIDGE in Niue. All of our Niuean colleagues from the Ministry of Justice were wonderful hosts and made the program even more memorable through the generous gift of their time outside of the course hours. In particular, Nooroa Marsh, who acted as the administrative liaison officer for the government of Niue went above and beyond the call of duty and I thank her on behalf of the whole group. And, of course to AusAID, without whose assistance none of this would have been possible.