Pacific Island reporters take a lesson in tweeting their news

FIJI journalist Serafina Silaitoga can barely wait to get home to start blogging and tweeting.

She has had a crash course in social media as part of a five-week program that has visited the Border this week.

The Fiji Times bureau chief is one of 11 south-west Pacific journalists on a five-week professional development program tour of Australia.

The focus is on news media and the role of women in the economy.

Their visit to the Border began on Thursday and continued yesterday with a tour of The Border Mail, followed by an afternoon visit to the Lake Moodemere Vineyard.

The program is run by the Melbourne-based Asia Pacific Journalism Centre, under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australia Awards scheme.

The journalists taking part are from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Ms Silaitoga said tweeting was popular around the world but the Pacific islands lagged behind.

“We have learnt how we can tweet our work — when we write stories about these women you can always tweet it and then attract our customers overseas,” she said.

Centre program manager Deborah Muir said the program was focused on business and economic reporting that addressed the views and concerns of women in the Pacific.

“For our group of 11 journalists from the Pacific islands the fellowship has been a real eye-opener,” she said.

“The comments I’ve had back are that a lot of the things we’ve been able to present to them through ecomomic literacy and financial access programs they can relate back home really well.”

In Canberra, the group met Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja the day before the federal budget.

Ms Silaitoga said she was based in Fiji’s north island, where she did a lot of work with women.

“It’s more rural-based stories, community stories, so this is an opportunity to come and learn more about how we as journalists can help women,” she said.

“They do handicraft work and we have helped out by publishing their stories and then getting assistance from our readers all over the world.”

Grace Maina, a bureau chief with Papua New Guinea’s Post-Courier newspaper, said she, too, had a focus on women’s issues and how to bring about economic benefits.

On Thursday, the journalists were given a welcome to country by a Wiradjuri elder at Charles Sturt University, then met members of the Border’s Bhutanese community.

Ms Muir said this highlighted for some of the journalists the “complexities of arguments in Australia about who lives here and has a right to live here”.

Georgina Kekea works for One News Television in the Solomon Islands.

She said it had given her a greater understanding of Australia’s resettling programs for refugees.

“It has taught us to be grateful of where we come from and not take things for granted, that we should be happy that at least we still have our culture and a place where we can call home,” she said.

The group will take part in a seminar at Charles Sturt University this morning on the “challenges and issues for women in rural economies” before heading to Melbourne.