Responsible Volunteering and Tourism

How can you be a responsible tourist/volunteer?

Planning to travel to the Pacific?

Understand the important role you play as a tourist or volunteer in keeping children safe.

The page provides tips on how to have safe, respectful and positive interactions with children when you visit communities and villages in Fiji.

Hear from a young person in Fiji about what she would like visitors to consider when planning a trip to Fiji.

Find out how to choose a child safe tour operator.

 

A tourists/volunteers responsibility: 

  • Educate yourself about the region you are travelling to. The Pacific has a wide variety of culture and traditions and it is best to understand the cultural norms and expectations in place. For example, within Fiji, indigenous peoples living in rural villages often have complex traditions in place, one being not to touch another person on the head. This of course includes children. See Fiji Travel for more information about visiting villages and child safety.
  • You should always ask for permission when taking photographs of people in the country you are visiting, especially children. Check with the child, and parent or a relative if it is okay for the photo to be taken.
  •  Ensure you are respectful of boundaries, for example, hugging children. If unsure, please ask, it is respectful and allows for the child’s rights to be considered.
  • If there is a tourist company or even your taxi driver offering orphanage visits think before you go. A constant stream of strangers visiting children in residential care is not in the best interests of those children. Orphanage visits breach a child’s right to privacy and dignity, can expose vulnerable children to child protection risks and creates expectations that can leave children feeling abandoned and exploited.
  • Other ways you can engage with helping children is to look out for organisations working to strengthen families in order to to keep children with their family and community. Also spending your money at the local restaurants, craft markets, transport and shops as this helps families to support their children.
  • If you are travelling with a private tour operator, research the company! Look at its previous work, ask questions around the company’s child safety policy and practices.
  • Child Safe Tourism practices are those that ‘do no harm’ to children and young people. As a tourist seek out those operators that provide ethical and child safe travel experiences. This will make your time in Fiji more positive for both yourself and the communities you visit.
  • What makes a child safe and ethical tour operator? – see the AVI and Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport Fiji (MCTTT) Child Safe Tourism Brochure

See also Child Safe

What to consider when selecting an overseas volunteer role/ internship position:

  • Have they asked for a Police Check, if not why?
  • Have they asked for a Working With Children Check?
  • Even if you will not be explicitly working with children for your role, if you are volunteering in a community, you will still encounter children.
  • Do they have a record of creating positive impact for communities?
  • Consider the language used by the company. Are they using emotive language such as “make a child smile”? If so, think about what this means in how they are positioning their company as being helpful to a community. Is this appropriate?
  • Does the role requirements for qualifications/experience seem appropriate? A good gauge of this is to consider would it be okay for you to perform this role in your own country with the skills advertised?
  • Does the company provide information about the culture and language of the community you would be travelling into? It is important to know the traditions and rules of a community to be respectful. If a company is not providing this, they are probably not an organisation to invest your money and time in.
  • Has the company provided a breakdown of the cost of the trip? Ensure when receiving this the fees are mainly directed to the community or project running costs.
  • How long is the program? Two weeks is probably too short to make a real difference, again consider your own country and how long it takes to make a positive change?
  • Does the company mention orphanage visits? See ReThink Orphanges for more information into Orphanage Tourism and Responsible and Child Safe Volunteering.
  • Does the company have local connections? If not, consider how the company is assessing local project needs. If adverse to local needs, you may be a part of creating a negative impact.
  • Lastly, it always good to ask questions! In the end it is your responsibility to choose the right organisation.

 

See the Australian Government’s Smart Volunteering page and Smart Volunteering Brochure

 

Hear Climate Change Activist AnneMary Raduva talk about what she hopes tourists and volunteers will think about before visiting Fiji.