The Fono

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Taking a caring culture and resilience to Pitcairn Island

The Fono’s Senior Social Worker Loga Crichton has just returned from a year-long secondment to Pitcairn Island. The mother of eight says working on the wave-lashed volcanic rock still inhabited by descendants of the Bounty mutineers, was a dream job. Working as the island’s Families and Community Advisor, Loga took the expertise gained at The Fono into her unique role.

“Many of the  skills that I took to the island were gained at The Fono as a social worker,” says Loga, who has been with The Fono since 2003.

Of Samoan descent from the village of Moata’a, Loga says working on Pitcairn Island was a passion that had begun 15 years ago when the opportunity first arose.

At the time, Loga’s husband (who has since passed away) wasn’t so keen on the idea, “so I parked it.”

But Pitcairn was always at the back of her mind.

“It was more of a passion – something to tick off my bucket list as a dream job for me. The reason why I wanted to go there was that I was optimistic that I could make a positive transformational impact working intensively within an isolated small community over a 12 month period. But I would only ever know, if I went.”

“Ever since then I’d been hoping that one day, God willing, I would go and work there.”

The fates aligned in 2016 when the opportunity came about because of her son, who works as a teacher.

“My son came over and said the teacher next door was married to the man that did the hiring for Pitcairn Island, so my son gave me his details.

“I made my interest known to him and he sent me an application form … the rest is history.”

As an advocate for investing in families, Loga welcomed the challenge of working with the families on the island.

“Before I went to Pitcairn, I knew that it was going to be the most challenging job I’d ever done as a social worker. The remoteness of the island itself, and being away from my close knit family, church and supportive colleagues was going to be tough,” she says.

But she cared enough to try.

“It was indeed the most challenging job,” she confirmed, “with a population of 42-50, everyone is related to each other.”

Pitcairn was settled in 1790 by nine mutineers from the British naval ship HMS Bounty, who arrived on the island with a group of 18 Tahitians, including six men, 11 women and a baby girl.

The island is one of 14 remaining British overseas territories. It was tarnished by a child abuse scandal in 2004, when six men were imprisoned for sexual offences..

Reports of life on Pitcairn say it has always been – and still is, because of its isolation – physically demanding and challenging.

With an ageing population of mostly relatives, Loga agrees that there are many challenges.

“It’s very isolated,” she recalls, “and they don’t talk to each other.”

Loga’s role was to invest in families who wanted to make changes with their relationships and how families interacted with each other.

Her experiences within her own close-knit loving and supportive family and of working within a highly supportive workplace at The Fono was instrumental to how she conducted herself on the island.

“I was working with families and supporting them through the three components of health, welfare and education to bring about positive changes.”

It’s something which she feels she managed well.  

“We saw a lot of changes in people from when I arrived compared to when my son, who had come over for my final three months, and I left. It has been a humbling experience to have contributed to some significant transformational change. My intention was to ‘close the gap’ that existed between s many family members, and it seems like my fresh approach was embraced by many. Having my son on the island for the last three months provided a wonderful opportunity for the locals to witness what a healthy and supportive parent and child relationship can look like. It was a powerful time.” 

Loga is now back at The Fono working on a community building project and supporting the work of their family violence service.