When ABC Upper Hunter local radio in New South Wales heard that Simon Manuel, an Australia-Pacific Technical College graduate in refrigeration from Fiji, was living and working in the Hunter region they invited him to do an interview. Simon found himself an unofficial ambassador for both his home country and the APTC as he told the radio audience about his work, his earlier life and his APTC experience.
Interviewer Jill Emberson asked Simon the kind of questions Australian listeners want to know about Fiji and what it’s like to live there. Simon talked about his life in Savusavu on the south coast of the island of Vanua Levu where he was born and about growing up in Suva, the Fijian capital. He pointed out the importance Fijians attach to the family. Families can be large, said Simon. So large, in fact, that as the conversation proceeded it revealed a family connection between Simon and the interviewer.
Jill Emberson’s paternal grandmother was from Tonga but she also has relations in Fiji. “My first cousin is married to an Emberson,” Simon told her. So interviewer and interviewee are related. You could count the number of times that’s been discovered during a radio interview on the fingers of one hand.
Simon also talked about the APTC, which is funded by the Australian Government agency AusAID and has campuses and teaching centres throughout the Pacific at which it offers vocational qualifications at Australian level. He thanked AusAID for the initiative which had made it possible for him to get the qualification in refrigeration that had enabled him to take a job in Australia. He spoke about the way his life and the lives of other Pacific region students had changed because of the help and training they’d received at the APTC.
Jill Emberson asked Simon about how he’d gone about getting a job in Australia. He told her the opportunity came from a Hunter Valley firm, Clements Air Conditioning Refrigeration Electrical (CARE), where he now works. He considers himself very fortunate. Even though Fiji has a growing economy it is a small nation and cannot offer the same level of employment opportunity.
Simon says he likes the Australian lifestyle “very much”, but he noted that there were many Australians who had gone the other way and settled in Fiji.
The success of the interview didn’t surprise Simon’s former APTC trainer Michael Moller from the School of Trades and Technology in Apia, Samoa, where Simon had gone for his refrigeration studies. “I am sure Simon will be a great ambassador for APTC and AusAID,” he emailed when he heard the program was coming up. And so it proved to be.