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An eye-opener

Serafina Silaitoga In Melbourne, Australia
Saturday, May 10, 2014

"THERE is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable"— UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon (2008).

Have you ever thought for a moment about appreciating the most important women in your life — whether they be mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers or cousins?

And what have you done to show your appreciation?

This has been an issue put to a group of journalists from Pacific Island countries who are attending a workshop in Melbourne, Australia.

The workshop, held at the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre in North Carlton suburb, has definitely been an eye-opener.

It has stirred moments of reflection for many participants, revisiting their leadership skills and certainly the consideration of improving it.

The program has also provided an opportunity to meet Dolores Cummins and Barbara Baikie — Australian authors who have conducted leadership seminars around the world.

The women also still teach in universities around Australia.

Their organisation — C3 Leadership and Wick Consulting — is well known for its unique teachings of leadership and communication.

One of the lessons taught is called Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) and leadership styles which teaches participants to understand the characters of others they work with.

And to some extent, understand why they clash and cannot agree with workmates when it comes to discussions.

Divided into four quadrants, the characters are: analytical thinking, sequential thinking, interpersonal thinking and imaginative thinking.

Analytical people are those who get straight to the point, take things seriously, argue rationally and work on facts rather than rumours.

Sequential thinkers approach problems practically, stand firm on issues, maintain a standard of consistency and articulate plans in an orderly way.

Interpersonal thinkers easily read the signs of a situation, see the big picture of it, tolerate ambiguity and challenge set procedures while imaginative thinkers recognise interpersonal difficulties, anticipate how others feel, teach and share.

An added bonus was another lesson where we were taught how to read body languages and the movement of the eyes to determine whether the person is lying or telling the truth.

Wow! The many revelations that have been unfolded in our seminar about how people get away with things and how we can detect it through reading between the lines has given many an empowered strength to practise this skill when we return home.

ABC News editor Deborah Steele told us at a dinner that the media played a vital role in empowering women in the Pacific.

She said journalists needed to highlight more women involved in informal jobs.

"We have a program that gives an opportunity to the people in the Pacific, including women to have their voices heard through the stories and experiences they share with us on Pacific Beat," Steele said.

"And you as journalists have a role to play in helping our women getting recognised for the work they do. There are many women involved in informal sector jobs and their contribution and work needs to be valued and recognised.

"These women contribute and make a huge difference in the community by carrying out their chores."

Steele challenged many of us to start using our jobs as a way to assist and empower these women.

As for the visit to Melbourne City, transformation has definitely happened to our wardrobes.

What used to be cotton casual wear back home is now a double covering of jackets, stockings, boots, long pants, binnies and scarfs.

And there have been occasions when we meet the locals here who turn up to the city in just shorts and vest.

"Omg, are they for real? Look at us, all covered up and it must be the tropical weather we are so used to," said Tongan journalist Lusane Luani as everyone cracked up with a laugh.

Melbourne City is beautiful, particularly the historic buildings that surround the area.

Our hotel apartments at Quest on Carlton is not far from the city and about a five-minute walk.

So you can imagine our tourist instincts taking us to the city every night as we get more familiar with the area.

Oh and the cost of groceries is just unbelievable!

We discovered this on a shopping trip to a well-known supermarkets such as Big W and Aldis in the city.

The groceries, meat, fruits and poultry are so cheap including the cereal.

A big packet of cornflakes is just $A4 ($F6.88) compared with the price of $F12 ($A6.97) for the same packet back home.

Another yearning we have all had is to see at least faces of some islanders in the area which has been rare.

So in the tram on Thursday morning, Solomon photojournalist Koroi Hawkins decides to ask a Melanesian looking girl about her country of origin.

"Hi, are you from the Solomons," he asked.

"Nah, sorry I am South African," the girl politely responded.

"Cala tale o Manasa," I whispered.

In the city last Sunday, Irene Manueli, a former The Fiji Times journalist and now a teacher assistant in the school of journalism at USP grabbed my hand after she saw an iTaukei boy walk past.

"Hey bula," we both screamed. But the boy ran across the road without even looking back so we joked that he could be overstaying because he didn't want to look at us.

But Press Freedom Day has got us planning ways of celebrating with journalists in Australia which started last Friday.

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