In 2012, the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) opened its School of Health and Community Services Training Centre in Suva.
The new training facility offers APTC's Certificate III in Disability. The course benefits not only Fiji citizens but the region as a whole, as one of only a limited number of formal courses offered in the Pacific, in this area.
In this opening address, the Acting Australian High Commissioner, Glenn Miles, elaborated on why the Australian Government believes in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities.
"From a social, economic and moral viewpoint, no society can afford to ignore such a large part of its own population. Statistics have proven that girls and boys with a disability are less likely to go to school, and have less access to services and support. They show that people with disability have poorer health outcomes, are less likely to gain an income, an income that could help lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
"The fundamental purpose of the Australian Aid program is to help people overcome poverty", he said.
The focus on disability across the Australian AID program is a commitment to 1.2 million people affected by a disability across the Pacific - approximately 15 per cent of the population.
Through the Certificate III course in disability, students from the region working in special education centres, vocational training centres, government departments, special schools and care facilities will now be formally trained and qualified. These students who already have a sound knowledge of disability in their home countries will not only improve their skills and knowledge but take what they have learned back to their homes for the betterment of their communities.
For Fiji citizen Jone Vuetiverata, a graduate of APTCs' Certificate III in disability, the invaluable training has meant moving on from a volunteer role working with people with disability, to a full time teaching position with the Ministry of Education.
"With the training I received from APTC, I am now capable of teaching and taking proper care of students with disabilities. APTC provided a platform to share experiences on the regional level with other teachers from special schools around the Pacific enrolled in the course.
"During our discussions, we gathered that there have been lots of meetings, workshops and papers written, but little or no change in the care of people with disabilities. With this course we have been reminded that we are the change agents that can make a difference," Mr Vuetiverata said.
Born with cerebral palsy, Ni-Vanuatu Freda Willie is wheel chair bound and a testament to the motto that anything is possible.
Having graduated with a Certificate III in Tourism from APTC last year, Freda's "can-do attitude" is an example for all.
"Don't let people look down on you. You must have the right attitude to work or to attend school and that whatever you do you will succeed. If given an opportunity to upgrade skills and qualification, take this as an occasion that will open doors to future careers and once in please give your best to it," Freda Willie said.
In addition to the Disability Course, the training facility also houses Certificate III programs in Community and Aged Care; Youth Work and Community Services
APTC is an Australian government funded initiative managed by AusAID providing Australian standard quality technical and vocational education to students in the Pacific across 23 course areas.