Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific and her opposition counterpart had a taste of life at the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre in Kiribati last month during a three-day bipartisan visit to the remote Pacific Island nation.
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, and Senator Claire Moore, Labor’s Shadow Minister, visited Kiribati from July 17-20 to reinforce Australia’s bipartisan commitment to Kiribati and to strengthen the connection between the two countries.
Minister Fierravanti-Wells said the aim of the visit was to highlight Australia’s continued support for economic development in the Pacific through assistance in education, health and security, and the shared agenda of both countries to eliminate violence against women.
During their stay, the bipartisan delegation met with the President of Kiribati, His Excellency Taneti Maamau, to discuss common interests such as regional stability, development challenges, climate change, and other issues.
The delegation also visited the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre in Abaokoro, North Tarawa, where they met with staff, children and families. Established by the Good Samaritan Sisters in 2009, the Centre provides vital pre-school learning opportunities for children aged three to five years in Abaokoro and neighbouring villages.
“This was my first visit to Kiribati and it was great to visit not just South Tarawa but to travel across the lagoon and visit North Tarawa,” Minister Fierravanti-Wells told The Good Oil.
“I was really pleased to visit the Early Childhood Centre and see the good work that the Good Samaritans were doing. There was a great sense of community with both children and parents there to welcome us.”
Senator Fierravanti-Wells, who is a former student of St Mary’s Star of the Sea College, Wollongong, in New South Wales, met last year with Sister Clare Condon, Congregational Leader of the Good Samaritan Sisters, who encouraged the Senator to visit the sisters in Kiribati and see the work of the Centre first-hand.
“I had promised Sister Condon that I would visit and I was pleased to be able to keep my promise!” said Minister Fierravanti-Wells.
Like the Minister, it was Senator Claire Moore’s first visit to Kiribati, although in recent years she said she has met with people from the region, particularly around the issues of climate change.
“I was really pleased to have the opportunity to visit with the Minister and show the cross- party support for the region,” said Senator Moore.
“I was impressed by the beauty of the two islands I visited and the extraordinary colour of the sea – a real aqua. Naturally the narrow land mass, with the single road was confronting, and reinforced the daily reality of the impact of climate change.
“The people were welcoming, the children particularly engaging, and the local dancing was fabulous.”
Senator Moore said the visit to the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre was “very special”.
“The long-standing dedication of the sisters was evident in the historical photographs at the Centre, and the clear commitment to the future of education for Kiribati children,” she said.
Good Samaritan Sister Kakare Biita, Director of the Good Samaritan Early Childhood Centre, said she and Sister Tuata Terawete were “very happy to welcome our important guests from Australia”.
In her welcome address to the guests, Kakare spoke about the history of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ presence and ministry in Abaokoro, and the ongoing development of the Centre, which will include the construction of an additional classroom and staff area, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the parish and school communities of Sts Peter and Paul’s, Bulimba, in Brisbane.
“We are thankful to the congregation and partners in ministry from Australia for their support to us through their skills, finance and teaching materials to keep on going with our ministry to assist with the early childhood education of the children here at Abaokoro,” Kakare told those gathered.
“We have now the drawings for the addition of the classroom and staff area. We hope the building will start this year.”
After a performance by the children, which included a welcome song and traditional dancing, the Minister briefly addressed those gathered, before the guests moved to the convent for a light lunch.
“We are very honoured for their visit,” said Kakare, “especially for the visit of Senator Honourable Concetta, a former student of a Good Samaritan School, and we admired her as a woman gifted for leadership.”