As 2021 draws to a close, I am excited to announce that the Solomon Islands Canberra Community Association (SICCA) officially has a website in time for their 20 year anniversary next year! Helping to create this website has been a challenging and highly rewarding task. In the process I have conducted archival research, oral interviews, community consultations, filmed videos and sifted through dozens of photos, and I so am grateful for how supportive SICCA members have been in providing me with resources and sparing time for my questions.
The website includes six tabs: Home, Our Values, About Us, Our Future, Get in Touch and a link to SICCA’s Facebook Group. Each tab leads to a page containing text and multimedia related to the topic.
I had two aims for my public history project.
The first was to implicitly investigate what role SICCA plays in identity formation for Solomon Islanders based in Canberra and regional New South Wales (NSW). The second aim, which developed as my website evolved, was to explicitly show the active involvement of SICCA members in their local communities, and potential to expand in the future.
Creating a website or online platform for an organisation is by no means an original feat, however, for a minority ethnic community it represents an innovative opportunity to publicise the involvement and actions of community members in a digital age and at a time where climate migration and the Pacific Labour Scheme is intensifying Solomon Islanders permanent and temporary migration to Australia. My target audiences- past, current and future SICCA members and government and business organisations- can see what activities are occurring and how they might get involved.
My project came about through discussions with the SICCA President who was keen on developing a website. I had originally suggested the creation of a collaborative cookbook, where I had hoped to ask members to contribute a recipe and detail the history of a dish alongside their history with SICCA. While this would have benefited the community directly, it would unlikely have had a wide-reaching impact. Rather, creating a website directly aligns with SICCA’s future goals:
- to increase community engagement (with a focus on local government and business partnerships); and
- for SICCA to become a voice for their community.
The website is beneficial to SICCA community members pursuing their future goals who may need a platform to promote and demonstrate their achievements, including to access potential grant programs, government or business partners, and to solidify their legitimacy to speak on social issues. For example, agencies looking to collaborate with a reputable and engaged Solomon Island community can contact SICCA using the new email address created for the website that is linked on the ‘Contact’ page. This centralises and efficiently streamlines future communication, which previously was undertaken in an ad hoc and random manner. It will also give the Solomon Islands High Commission staff a direct line of communication to SICCA members which aligns with the community values.
Therefore, the presentation suggested by SICCA’s President enabled me to reach my goal of uncovering SICCA’s impact on identity formation while promoting their community contributions to Canberra and NSW on an accessible, meaningful platform.
The website was created with sustainability in mind. The SICCA President was involved in every step of the project, including teaching him how to create the gmail account, log into google drive, access the website, transfer ownership of the website so that he may be in control and share this information with all community members in leadership positions. He was also filmed speaking to the community values and helped select which images were used on the website.
The originality of the website is tied to the evidence used to create it. For example, primary research involved the creative use of archived documents, facebook images, oral interviews and community consultation meant community voices and goals were prioritised and my methods of analysis challenged. For example, the original ‘founding document’ was used and its values updated for display on the website. Furthermore, my original goal was to create a timeline on the website, yet discussions and interviews demonstrated that SICCA members did not remember or consider dates and numerical timelines important, rather they remembered and valued emotions and people involved in certain events. This inspired me to create an ‘About Us’ page on the website that demonstrated SICCA’s history in a less prescriptive, more community-oriented way. It illustrates the existing partnerships we have in our community – from our local partnerships with Pacific Islander groups, to national partnerships with Solomon Islands state-based communities, and international links to Solomon Island based groups such as the national futsal association. The website also uses plain English, lots of images and videos to demonstrate these actions in ways that all SICCA members can access- and there are ongoing discussions on whether to also translate site content to Solomon languages.
I am so grateful, not only for this experience which helped me build so many new skills and learn the importance of collaboration, but for the SICCA members who made this possible. There is a long and exciting road ahead, but I genuinely believe this website provides a great foundation to build off and am so excited to continue my engagement with this wonderful and loving community!
Tagio Tumas (Thank you so much) SICCA!