The Mayor of Liverpool Ms Wendy Weller,
WOWS Foundation Executive Director and founder Mr Joe Pilgrim,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
The Fiji Day Organizing Committee Members,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Bula vinaka.
Good evening to each of you – and what an evening it is. You all look fantastic.

I love being surrounded by so many Fijians and friends of Fiji, I feel very at home among you all, even being so far from Suva. Thank you for your warm welcome, and for the hospitality that you have shown to me, my wife Mary, and our delegation.

You put Fiji’s best foot forward. Every smiling face in this room is a representation of Fiji’s finest – and you are each great ambassadors of Fiji to the Australian community.

After traveling from Canada and the United States to Fiji, we held the national Fiji Day celebrations in the west for the first time ever. Australia is now my fourth country in which I’ve spent Fiji Day this year. And that fact is quite a testament to the global reach of our diaspora community. Each celebration has been unique and special in its own way – yet all have shared the same feeling of being united as one Fijian family.

This event is particularly meaningful because it is not just a way for us celebrate and reconnect to our homeland, but it is an opportunity for us to give back in a meaningful way. The funds raised by tonight’s charity ball will have a direct impact on Fijian lives. For this, I thank the event organisers, sponsors, and donors – and I thank each and every one of you for your support and dedication to such a worthy and noble cause, and thank you for having me here tonight. With your generosity, the beneficiary of tonight’s event, WOWS Kids Fiji, will be able to help more of Fiji’s children to “Walk On Walk Strong.” With your generosity, WOWS will be able to help more children go on and to live positive lives, achieve their dreams, and find the strength to overcome any difficulties along the way.

WOWS Kids Fiji is dedicated to assisting children with cancer in Fiji, and supporting their families as they deal with the physical, emotional, and financial toll that the disease so often takes.

When coping with the harsh reality of cancer, especially children’s cancer, it’s difficult for patients and their caretakers to go at it alone; this is why WOWS has stepped forward to offer help when it’s needed most.

Cancer is the third leading cause of death in Fiji, and the types of childhood cancer that WOWS deals with– like leukemia, brain, and bone cancer– can be especially devastating. This year alone, WOWS Kids supported 63 children in Fiji, spending an average of $9,000 per child each month to provide transportation, treatment, and medical supplies. WOWS also assists in ways that go beyond the hospital by helping with some of the less obvious costs of treatment, like accommodation costs for children and their families, and phone card top-ups that allow them to stay in constant contact with their doctors and WOWS support team.

My Government, through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, shares WOWS’ commitment to easing the burden of cancer and supporting families. In 2016, the Ministry of Health, with the Fiji Cancer and WOWs Kids, signed the World Cancer Declaration, with the goal of reducing the preventable mortality rate of cancer patients in Fiji. And just recently, the Honourable Minister of Health, Ms. Rosy Akbar, launched August as the Fiji’s first-ever Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this launch, the Honourable Minister shared a statistic that gave me great hope: In just the past five years, the survival rate of common childhood cancers had more than doubled in Fiji. This progress would not be possible without the combined efforts of the Government, organisations like WOWS Kids, and supporters like you. With your help, the future for Fiji’s children is even brighter. By giving generously to WOWS, you are giving directly to a happier and healthier tomorrow for Fiji’s children.

Once again, I thank everyone who made tonight’s event possible, and everyone who has opened up their hearts and wallets this evening.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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