The USP Marine Collection, at the School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Sciences (SAGEONS) is a partner in a youth-based project investigating cultural perceptions and experiences by Fijian urban youth. It also investigates how local organisations involved in cultural heritage and the arts can engage youth participation and provide sustainable employment.
The project, Urban Pathways: Fiji. Youth. Arts. Culture., partner institutions include the University of East Anglia (UEA) based in the UK, the Pacific Community (SPC), the Fiji Museum and the VOU Dance Company.
The Marine Collection is based at the Discipline of Marine Studies and is the University’s natural history collection of marine animal and plant species from the region. Mr. Kelly Brown, Curator of the Collection, said that this was the first time for the Collection to be involved in interdisciplinary research that focused on youth.
“The Collection brings the natural heritage aspect to the project and this is a good platform to make the facility relevant to researchers and users outside of the natural sciences.”
Dr. Frances Koya Vaka’uta who is the co-lead on the project and the SPC Culture for Development Team Leader, says that this project is a unique opportunity to focus on urban youth and their cultural experiences in Fiji. “The internship programme offers a practical, hands-on learning experience in the areas of cultural heritage, natural heritage and the cultural and creative industries. The interns also have opportunity to learn from each other, so it is a very exciting initiative for them and for everyone involved.”
The project features a Youth Work Placement Programme (YWPP) where 15 urban youth undergo paid work placements at the Marine Collection, the Fiji Museum in Suva, and the VOU Dance Company in Nadi. Four interns with marine science, environmental management and law backgrounds make up the USP YWPP cohort. Already proving to be an enriching experience, “the YWPP has prompted the UEA team to create a similar internship opportunity for Fiji’s UK-based youth, who will have the chance to engage with the 15 Fiji-based interns and will provide an interesting comparison between urban youth culture in Fiji and the UK” says project Postdoctoral Research Associate and YWPP Coordinator Dr Katrina Talei Igglesden.
The British Academy Youth Futures Programme is supported under the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. “The projects funded under this programme aim to bring a much-needed youth-led perspective on the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda”, says project Principal Investigator Dr Karen Jacobs, who is a Senior Lecturer in Pacific Arts at the UEA Sainsbury Research Unit. “We are proud to be the only project in the Youth Future Programme based in the Pacific region.”