UN recognises Caritas Australia's work in the Pacific

20 Jun 2014   |   Media release   |   Long-term Development   |   Emergency Relief

PILAR award

Caritas Australia’s Solomon Islands country office has received the inaugural Pacific Innovation and Leadership Award for Resilience (PILAR) for helping local communities prepare for natural disasters.

 The PILAR was awarded to the office at a recent disaster risk management forum in Fiji, and was shared with representatives from two other not-for-profit organisations. Established by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the award encourages efforts in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors to develop innovative approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Pacific.

 The Pacific region has been struck by a number of natural disasters, and some of these have had a devastating effect on the people of the Solomon Islands. In February last year, a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that swept away many homes, with several people being reported missing. In 2007, another tsunami killed at least 52 people and left thousands homeless across the archipelago, while in 2009 flash floods killed 8 people, with 3 children under 4 being reported missing. 

To help the Solomon Islands and other countries in the region, Caritas Australia’s Solomon Islands staff have been working with local communities to develop a series of programs that prepare vulnerable communities for natural disasters and reduce risks. One of these innovative programs, featured in Project Compassion this year, educates children about the dangers of natural disasters through nursery rhymes, songs and other group activities that teach them what to do in an emergency. Solomon Islands program officer Mary Malagela sees the program as a simple, yet effective, way to get the message across.

 “It is really important to teach young kids simple and effective DRR messages, ones they will be able to share with their friends and family. It is something that is easy to remember, even during a stressful situation like a disaster event, and it can help kids feel safe, knowing what to do to protect themselves in a disaster. This is what makes our Nursery Rhyme Program so popular,” Mary said.

Since its inception, more than 4,000 children across the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have participated in the program. Mary and her colleagues hope to extend their DRR programs to primary and high school children elsewhere in the Pacific region. To achieve this, they will be working closely with the Solomon Islands’s National Disaster Office and Ministry of Education and Human Resources.

 One of the factors behind the program’s success has been the collaborative nature of its development. By conveying emergency procedures through the language and customs of local communities, the program exemplifies, as Mary points out, what can be achieved when local officials work with their communities.

“This program relies on strong partnerships in the community. Everyone is responsible for minimising the risk of disasters in a community, from teachers and children and their parents, to the National Disaster Management Office.  We are extremely excited and happy that our Nursery Rhyme Program has been recognised by the United Nations and we are very proud of our achievement on DRR.”


To find out more about the Nursery Rhyme Program which is featured in Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion 2014, and hear from a local school teacher, Martina, visit the Caritas Australia website. It’s also not too late to support the 2014 Project Compassion appeal which funds vital programs such as this - go to www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion.


Media contact: Nicole Clements 0408 869 833 or nicolec@caritas.org.au

Back to Newsroom