2016 Greg Urwin Awards Recipients Announced

The news story below was posted by the Pacific Leadership Program about the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients. It features Atoifi's Research Nurse, Mr Hilary Toloka. Congratulations Hillary!

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Five outstanding Pacific Islanders have been awarded the 2016 Greg Urwin Awards.

The Greg Urwin Awards are an Australian Government-Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) joint initiative. The Awards were established in 2008 to honour the memory and the legacy of the former Secretary General of PIFS and a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, the late Mr Greg Urwin.

Funded through the Australian-funded Pacific Leadership Program (PLP), the Awards provide financial support for up to AUD 25,000.00 for outstanding Pacific Island professionals, researchers and emerging leaders. Recipients are funded to undertake a three to six-month placement with a regional organisation or institution that has the potential to contribute to positive development in the region.

More than 20 emerging leaders from the region have completed placements under the Awards. There were more than 45 applications from the region for this round of the Awards.

“The applications we received were of a very high calibre. The Awardees indicated their passion in their respective fields. They also demonstrated that their placements will not only provide them with professional experience but also assist them in developing their leadership capacity and contribute positively to their countries and the region,” said Dame Meg Taylor, PIFS Secretary General and the Chairperson of the Awards Selection Committee.

“The five Awardees have made and are currently making significant contributions to their fields of interest ranging from health research and children’s rights advocacy to sustainable fisheries. We congratulate them and wish them the best in their endeavours.”

The 2016 Greg Urwin Awardees are:

Ms Adi Talanaivini Mafi (Tonga) is a Legal Officer with the Ministry of Justice. Ms Mafi will be based with the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) within the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Fiji to advocate for the rights of children within the Tongan criminal justice system and identify legal provisions that will eradicate legally mandated violence against children.

Mr Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands) is a Research Nurse based at the Atofi Adventist Hospital in the Solomon Islands. He envisions research and leadership as essential to improving health systems in the Solomon Islands. He will serve his placement at James Cook University in Australia where he hopes to build networks and partnerships between Solomon Islands researchers and international researchers.

Dr Laila Seduadua (Fiji) is a Medical Doctor with postgraduate qualifications in paediatrics. Her area of focus is improving comprehensive care for children with cancer. She will serve her placement with the Christchurch Hospital Oncology Department and hopes that the placement will assist her to establish the Child Cancer Research and Registry for the Pacific.

Ms Zuabe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) is a Program Coordinator in a health program in Morobe Province. She holds a Master’s Degree (Honors) in Public Health and has more than 10 years experience in sexual reproductive health. She is interested in promoting rural indigenous PNG women’s sexual reproductive and general health. She will serve her placement with Morobe Council of Women’s office of Community Development Division.

Mr Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) is an Environmental Consultant. He holds a Masters of Arts from the School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London. He will be based in the office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), Majuro, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Melino hopes to broaden his expertise in natural resources and to review the PNA’s partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which identify opportunities to improve the sustainability of tuna resources and increase the contributions of fisheries to the development of the Pacific.

The awards are co-managed by the Pacific Leadership Program and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Photo: 2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)
2016 Greg Urwin Awards recipients L-R: Dr. Laila Sauduadua (Fiji), Vini Mafi (Tonga), Zuaibe Tinning (Papua New Guinea) Melino Bain-Vete (Fiji) and Hillary Toloka (Solomon Islands)

Plans to tackle hookworm in Marovo

The Atoifi Health Research Group recently travelled to to Marovo Island in Marovo Lagoon, Western Province, Solomon Islands to conduct a survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) in two villages. Working in Chea and Sasaghana from 3-9 January, 2016 the Group worked with village-based research assistants to identify the extent of gutworm infestation in their communities.

Consistent with the learn-by-doing model of the Group, 26 research assistants had training in the lifecycles and transmission of STH, basic microscopy, identification of STH eggs and larvae, collection and management of samples.

The trainees then put their new knowledge into practice the same week, assisting with the collection and management of samples and identifying STH eggs in samples provided by people from the two villages.

Mr Humpress Harrington, Research Leader and host of the Group in Marovo, said “The knowledge about the transmission cycle of the main parasite found – hookworm – will help inform water and sanitation programs in the two villages.”

Australian researchers Emeritus Professor Rick Speare, Tropical Health Solutions, and Dr David MacLaren, James Cook University were supported by Atoifi-based researchers Mr Humpress Harrington, Mr Esau Kekeubata, Mrs Dorthy Esau and Mr Tommy Esau, and Marovo Island resident Mr Nobo Harrington, all who have extensive research experience as a result of the health research capacity strengthening activities that have been conducted at Atoifi since 2009.

There are plans to return to Marovo to continue to STH research.

“The Chairman of Marovo Island Council of Chiefs invited the Group to do three things”, Mr Harrington explained. “Send back the STH Survey Report as soon as possible to inform water and sanitation options, survey more villages and retest the populations after we have built more toilets.”

As a result of the survey, all residents of the two villages have received deworming medication.

For more information about this research, please contact Mr Humpress Harrington:

Photo: Dr David MacLaren explains how to use the use microscope to research assistants on Marovo Island.

Photo courtesy of Mr Benjamin Speare

Training for in-depth interviewing and focus group discussions

By Tommy Esau, Research Officer

A two-day Research Capacity Strengthening Workshop was held at Atoifi Adventist Hospital during December, 2015. The Workshop focused on research skills – specifically in-depth interviewing and focus group discussions. The sessions on facilitating individual interviews and focus group discussions were described by Chief John Wakageni RN, Coordinator for the Women and Tuberculosis project, as “important and useful tools to improve our research skills.”

The Workshop was facilitated by Dr David MacLaren and Professor Rick Speare, senior public researchers from Australia. The Workshop sessions were run twice each day, with morning sessions mostly in Pijin and evening sessions mostly in English. Practical sessions were held in the afternoons with a focus on in-depth interviewing using examples from a current Women and TB Project.

Participants of the Workshop included Atoifi Hospital and Pacific Adventist University –Atoifi campus staff and students, community leaders and Kwaio chiefs. Despite many Hospital staff and students being on holiday and community leaders busy with preparation for Christmas, there was still strong attendance at the Workshop sessions.

The Atoifi Health Research Group, led by Dr David MacLaren and Professor Rick Speare, also ran training on research management. The Group reviewed 2015 research projects and planned for 2016 projects. This included plans for a survey of soil-transmitted helminths (STH) to be conducted in January 2016 in Marovo, Western Province, Solomon Islands.

Other WHO TDR-funded Research Workshops and a Symposium were planned for 2016. The Group reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen research capacity by conducting health research in Solomon Islands to enable a Pacific Islands approach to understanding health issues affecting Pacific Islands communities.

For more information about the Atoifi Health Research Group, please visit: or email

Photos: Practical and planning sessions with: (L) the Women and TB project team, and (R) the STH research team.

East Kwaio villages host James Cook University students

By Tommy Esau, Research Worker

Five Sports and Exercise Science (SES) students from the Cairns campus of James Cook University (JCU) have just returned after a successful two week trip to Solomon Islands. Led by Dr Glen Deakin and Dr David MacLaren of JCU, and supported by videographer Mr Benjamin Speare, this second visit built on partnerships established last year with the villages of Na’au and Abitona, East Kwaio, Solomon Islands.

This year five students, along with Dr Glen and Ben Speare were hosted by Abitona village and worked in both Na’au and Sifilo villages. The SES students facilitated training sessions, including for soccer and volleyball. In addition, SES students and lecturers conducted speed and agility testing.

In 2014, the JCU SES team had observed children from Solomon Islands had great agility and speed. Dr Glen said. “This year we wanted to do a test on the speed and the agility of children, as well as young adults and compare results to children and young adults of similar age in Australia.”

During testing, SES students discovered there are number of children and young adults with extreme speed and agility that, with proper training, could excel. These findings will be reported back to villagers and more broadly.

Overall, the trip was a great success. A senior student, Paul Inglis said, “I was pleased to return to East Kwaio after my first visit last year. The people are friendly and learning about the culture, language and the environment is a great experience”.

A woman village leader, Genimala Snider added, “It is indeed a blessing having JCU Sport and Exercise Science students in Abitona village, and we look forward to continuing this long-term relationship well into the future.”

In a meeting with the community leaders, Dr Glen reaffirmed his commitment to a strong partnership with the villages in East Kwaio with a focus on sport and exercise, health and fitness, community development and responding to health needs.

Leaders from the villages of Canaan and Ogou have also expressed their interest for similar training and programmes in their communities. Thanks to a successful New Colombo plan grant, the visits to Solomon Islands by JCU Sport and Exercise Science students will continue for at least the next three years.

This activity complements the ongoing program of public health research through the Atoifi Health Research Group that pro-actively responds to health needs of village people in East Kwaio.

For more information, please email: or

A free book chapter 'Triathlon in the Tropics – South Pacific Style' can be found here:

Photo: JCU staff and students in Abitona village