ISLAND LIFE: Tongan community event organisers Evelyn Nio, Moe Turaga and Tania Deviney at the Lighthouse Hotel, the venue for the event.
ISLAND LIFE: Tongan community event organisers Evelyn Nio, Moe Turaga and Tania Deviney at the Lighthouse Hotel, the venue for the event. Jay Fielding

'We need to do more to stop workers dying'

ISLANDER dancing, singing, food and more will be the theme of the night when The Lighthouse Hotel transforms into a cultural hub for Pacific Inclusion.

And while the annual fundraiser event will be a festive and merry occasion highlighting islander life, the reason behind the cause is much more serious.

This year, Pacific Inclusion will focus on raising funds to help the Tongan community and its seasonal workers - which, according to chief event planner Moe Turaga, comes at a crucial time.

He said two Tongan workers had died in the region in the last 12 months and more needed to be done before another tragedy happened.

"We have already had two deaths of Tongan workers so we just want to make sure that there is a system in place for these workers, that there is somebody that is Australian that can assist before that ever happens again," he said.

"We want to keep the whole system honest and also let the farmers know that... these are human beings..."

On January 4, a 35-year-old Tongan man, who had been working on a farm in Bundaberg, was discovered dead in his accommodation.

It was the second death of a Pacific Islander on the Seasonal Worker Program in the region.

In May, 22-year-old Sione Vakameilalo Fifita, known as Vaka, was working for a contractor at Childers when he became unwell and later died.

His family claims he was sick for about two weeks before his death, and his workmates reported he was vomiting blood but received no medical assistance until it was too late.

Mr Turaga said the deaths had affected the islander community.

"We have a system where we suffer in silence - we need to break that system," he said.

"If we continue to do that we continue to accept that it is okay for people to come here and die."

Mr Turaga said the Pacific Inclusion event would be not only about being celebrating culture but also about creating a support network.

"We are looking at building a very inclusive community within the Pacific nations that we have," he said.

"There are so many different walks of life we have in our region, which is fantastic, but people often don't get to see how islanders live."

"It is about the cultural exchange and education but also looking at what part of the pacific we can really help."

Pacific Inclusion event organiser Tania Deviney said this year would be the third that the event had been operating and would feature a range of entertainment, stalls and more to celebrate islander life.

"This fundraiser event is where we share our culture with everybody while also raising money for each island in the Pacific," she said. "The first two years we raised money for Fiji after a cyclone hit and then raised some more funds to send over storage containers for the school kids."

"This year will be for the Tongan community with the proceeds going to the Tonga Australia Seasonal Workers Association."

The festivities of the night kick off from 5pm on Saturday, February 17, at The Lighthouse Hotel.

There will be tradition cultural performances, a pig on the spit, twilight markets, kids' entertainment, monster raffles and more.

Ms Deviney said a major raffle prize featuring a Tongan jersey signed by Cowboys player Jason Taumalolo will also be up for grabs.

Meal tickets to the event are just $20.

To find out more or to register your own stall, contact 41594202.



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