A difficult question posed to the Fijian community at this year’s Fiji National Conference (FNC), following the issues of Mental Health, Identity, Family and Church being raised by young people at the last conference.
FNC 2020 was held in Adelaide, SA at the Lincoln College, on Kaurna land, hosted by the local Fijian community. With a significant number of Sydney Fijian Youth attending the conference, from Fiji Parish, Campbelltown UC, Leigh Fijian Parramatta and Rooty Hill UC, I attended as a Pulse worker to support the Emerging Gens from NSW/ACT.
Alongside the theme Created in the image of God… Who Am I, the conference focused heavily on Mental Health. There were 2 main sessions held, Clinical Seminar on Mental Health and Anxiety, Stress and Depression sessions, which allowed great conversations in our small groups. Small groups were made up of people of different ages and congregations, facilitated by young leaders. This was, and still is, a pretty big deal as the community don’t hold a lot of spaces to speak so openly about mental health. Although there was a wide spectrum of opinion as to how real mental health is or whether people in our community face such a thing, it was great that we allowed the space for people to share their perspective and journeys with mental health.
The weekend also held times of devotions, congregational and community reports and cultural celebrations! As per usual it isn’t a Fijian gathering without kalavatas, singing, dancing and kava! This year was the first time all the Fijian Youths from across Australia combined for a cultural performance together. 😀
It was great to see many leaders attend FNC 2020 including Talatala Epineri Vakadewavosa, President of the Fiji Methodist Church, President Deidre, Faifekau Charrisa Suli, Stuart McMillan and all other Assembly and Synod leaders present. I am thankful to have attended as a Pulse worker for NSW/ACT supporting our Sydney representatives and humbled to have been chosen as the new FNC Youth Leader. It was a blessing to have the Kaurna people welcome the conference onto their land and for the iTaukei (Indigenous) leaders be a part of the conference, working together for the Covenanting of First and Second peoples.
Thank you to the Elders for giving permission for young people to lead the conversation and conference, for being open to this idea birthed at FNC 2018 and taking part in the fruition of it. I, as well as many others, are amazed and grateful for all the young Fijians who stepped up and out of their comfort zones, leading worship every morning, facilitating small groups, presenting back to the conference and the overall participation during the weekend. May God continue to work within the Fijian community and their journey of faith and life in the Uniting Church.
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and responsible for youth/high school ministry as a part of the PULSE team.