A Working Website! Solomon Islands Canberra Community Association

SICCA children hanging out during an event with the Solomon Islands flag flying to their left

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!

A home away from home: SICCA’s wantok system

In the Solomon Islands we have something called a ‘wantok system.’ In essence, it means that you take care of your family and community and in turn they take care of you. It creates a sense of belonging, reciprocity and, at its best, a loving community. 

The Solomon Islands Canberra Community Association (SICCA) is a great example of the wantok system in motion. Having grown up across the Pacific and spent some time in Canberra myself as a part of this loving community, I have chosen to work with its members this semester as a way to give back to a family who helped raise me. 

SICCA is a volunteer and ethnicity based community group that works actively to connect Solomon Islanders living in Canberra, as well as with other Solomon Island communities across Australia. Its formal origins can be traced to 2002 when Solomon Islanders living in Canberra decided to create an association. Being a small community made up of  mostly non-native English speakers, the organisation’s history and achievements have essentially gone undocumented in an academic or formal sense. They remain alive however, in oral histories and the stories we tell each other when reminiscing. I’d like to bring these events back to life and document our histories for all to see. 

Currently, I am scanning and selecting relevant primary documents that show the organisation’s history and consulting with community members to create a shared timeline. Some examples of achievements I hope to record include: multicultural festival performances, fundraising for natural disaster relief and sporting organisations across the Pacific, radio talk show features, intercultural sporting events and hosting visits for Prime Ministers from the Solomon Islands.

Through archival work, I have been fortunate so far to access the organisations’ ‘founding document’ which outlines its values and goals. These include six points: to connect children of the diaspora to their culture; celebrate significant national events; welcome Solomon Islanders visiting Canberra; support the Canberra-based Solomon Islands High Commission; promote Solomon Islands in Canberra; and bring cultural performers from the Solomon Islands to Australia. Written in 2002 it is the first formal articulation of the community’s existence.

This document inspired a discussion between myself and community members about the history and development of the organisation, considering that next year (2022) marks its twentieth anniversary. We discussed how much the organisation has achieved and yet, how little has been documented. Therefore they suggested creating a website for the community that outlines its values, history and contact details. This would be a significant achievement and mark the first time a detailed account of its history has been made available. 

A website could formalise the organisation’s online presence, celebrate its peoples’ achievements, record its history and possibly be used to attract funding. It is a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the achievements of a community whose origins and histories often go unrecognised. It will provide appropriate contact information for relevant organisations, businesses and government departments seeking to work and engage with the community and travel to Solomon Islands, and importantly help people to connect with family away from home. I am so excited to see where this project takes me and am grateful for the chance to give back to people I consider family and my home away from home.