The Fiji connection

By Bess Keaney

An initiative by the MLS Law Research Service (LRS) is strengthening ties with cyclone-devastated Fiji.

Robin Gardner, Law Research Service Manager, says witnessing Fiji rebuild after Cyclone Winston earlier this year gave her an idea.

“Law books are low down the list in terms of basic emergency supplies,” she says. “But it was our way to help.”

A contact in the Fiji High Court referred Gardner to Fiji National University (FNU), the nation’s youngest institution, where a need for books was identi ed. With the help of Fiji's Honorary Consul in Victoria Reg Hodgson and Rotary Australia, transport for 20 boxes of law library books was secured in June on containers loaded with disaster relief supplies.

Ana Rokomokoti, Acting Head of the Law Department at FNU, says the help could not have come at a better time.

“The books have significantly expanded the range of resources for our students to draw from,” she says.

Print materials are especially important in Fiji, a nation that until recently has had poor internet connection and limited access to electronic databases.

And with a shared common law heritage, the legal principles developed in Australia and New Zealand provide a natural point of reference for Fiji.

“It is very important that we are actually in touch with the developing laws in other countries,” Rokomokoti says.

Encouraged by the warm response from FNU, the LRS team – led by Gardner, Fiona MacDowall and Cate Read – put the call out to the Australian Law Librarians’ Association. The response was overwhelming.

“We had books coming from all over Australia,” Gardner says. “Our office started bursting at the seams.”

A follow-up shipment of books was sent in August. As books continue to flood into the Law School from across the country, the LRS is looking to expand its donation initiative to other libraries in Fiji and the Pacific.

But they’re careful to send only recent books in good condition.

“FNU have been really good at telling us what they don’t want,” Gardner says.

Rokomokoti agrees that it’s a two-way relationship. “Both sides are able to learn and gain legal knowledge from one another,” she says.

At FNU, there’s now the question of space. With the influx of books from Australia, and longer-term plans for the Law Department to grow its program offering, they are considering expanding the law section of the library.

“We’ve now asked whether they possibly need any shelving,” Gardner says.

“So that’s our next challenge.”

For donations, contact:

Banner image: FNU Library team L-R: Dr Udya Shukla, Chief Librarian; Umer Ghani, Clerical Officer; Dhan Latchmi, Library Attendant; Riteshni Prasad, Clerical Officer; Nirupa Lal, Office Administrator; Mr MD Sohail, Principal Librarian; Dr Chaminda Jayasundara, University Librarian

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 16, October 2016.