The Flexible Funding Program from the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman was a great opportunity for the Office of the Ombudsman Tonga to expand on our already expansive outreach and development initiatives. A proposal was submitted and we were fortunate to have been granted funding for three milestone projects towards the planting of the Ombudsman seed across our Kingdom Nation. They are as follows:
Outer Island focus
i. Ha’apai Island Hopping (25th – 29th September)
Ha’apai Islands is made up of 62 islands (17 are inhabited) and is geographically spread across 4,000 square miles of ocean. This initiative enabled two officers to travel to 11 islands over four days and was able to clarify our Office objectives and processes. A total of 20 complaints were gathered during this initiative.
ii. Mobile Office Vava’u (30th October – 3rd November)
Vava’u is Tonga’s second largest island group and has a semi Government presence. This initiative enabled three officers to temporarily set up Office at Neiafu and also tour village to village, spreading Good Governance and its role within the Government Ministries and Enterprises. The plan is to reach 20 villages in the five days the team is in Vava’u.
General feedback: They have heard of our Office through the different mediums such as our TV ads and Radio Talkback, but it is not until we physically reach their locale that they understand with clarity our line of work.
Attachment to Office of the Ombudsman Samoa (6th – 10th November)
This initiative was chosen primarily on exchange learning for the Staff of the Office. Our counterparts in Samoa were chosen based on their current mandate that includes i. Human Rights; and ii. Independent complaint mechanism against Police.
The Office of the Ombudsman Tonga is eager to scope out this line of work in the hope that it will be implemented as a mandate for our Office in the near future.
Outreach Products for educational products
Due to the limited local products available, this initiative allows us to order from an international source such as bags, pens and or coasters for outreach and billboards to be erected in the main centres of the outer islands.
These initiatives under the funding programme for the planting of the Ombudsman Seed was magnified with the impeccable timing of the Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand visit – Judge Peter Boshier (10-13 October), the Mapping Workshop and Advanced Investigation Training (co-funded by the United Nations Development Programme and the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman) held in Tonga (16-19 October) and the first Tonga Integrity March which was held on the 20th of October 2017.