Blackrock Camp engineers from the Australian Army’s 19th Chief Engineer Works, together with members from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Plant Troop and the project’s main contractor CC Pines, recently conducted a Sevusevu Ceremony at Saunaka Village, Nadi.

The group participated in the traditional Fijian practice to demonstrate their respect to the traditional owners of the land. The ceremony also involved the exchange of the gift of kava root.

After the formalities of the ceremony, Australian Army project engineer Captain Gerard Koen and works supervisor Warrant Officer Class 2 Golborn Turner heard stories from Saunaka Village members and a former RFMF senior soldier who shared his experiences while posted to Blackrock Camp in the early days.

“The people of Saunaka Village were delighted to welcome us into their beautiful home for the Sevusevu today, and we were honoured to join them in the ceremony and listen to their past experiences,” Captain Koen said.

“It is important to us that we respect and embrace the Fijian culture and traditions, so we were very thankful to Saunaka Village for allowing us to respectfully seek their consent for the great work we are doing together with the Fijian Government and RFMF at Blackrock Camp.”

The village chief proudly told the Australians that Saunaka Village was once coined ‘Rugby Village’, due to the talent that has come from the village, and hoped they would return one day to play touch football.

The redevelopment of Blackrock Camp at Votualevu, Nadi, into a peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) centre for the RFMF is a significant component of the Australian Government’s Pacific Step-up and demonstration of our joint commitment to the Vuvale Partnership.

The redevelopment project will provide Fiji with world-class infrastructure to support the RFMF’s peacekeeping and HADR capability, while also maximising Fijian local industry engagement to benefit the local economy.

It is estimated that the construction will provide employment for about 550 skilled and unskilled locals and contribute about $27 million into the local economy through local labour, materials and plant during the construction period.