Chasing dreams and inspiring hope

Chasing dreams and inspiring hope

After successfully navigating a path ridden with struggles, Josateki Vunimasi can now look back and bask in his own achievement.

His journey has stretched all the way from the Coral Coast village of Namatakula in Nadroga, where many household names in rugby find their common links.

It is from this place that Josateki first harboured the hopes and dreams of his family. Driven by a sense of purpose, he embarked on a journey to greener pastures.

That jaunt took him thousands of miles from home, to the vast lands of north-west Victoria.

His story is one that inspires people to believe in themselves. Josateki’s decision to become a firefighter sprouted from a tragic event that captured the world’s attention – the devastating Australian bushfires of 2019.

According to an ABC story in July 2023, Vunimasi was among nine Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) workers from Fiji who completed their Country Fire Authority (CFA) General Firefighter certificate and joined the ranks of brigades in Swan Hill and Woorinen as operational volunteers.

He vowed to be part of the solution, standing on the front lines, protecting lives, and preserving the environment.

“It has been a life achievement for me. When I was in Fiji, this is what I wanted to do — fight fire. I wanted to save lives and help the community and help the wildlife especially,” he told ABC.

With unwavering determination, Josateki hopes to complete additional course units to become a lieutenant, and ultimately make history by becoming the first Fijian captain of a fire brigade.

Kaveni Vatuinaruku, or otherwise known as Kevin Stone, the leader of Mahawa production on Tiktok and a group of friends from Nadroga Navosa expresses at Josateki and his friends’ achievement.

“With 35 years of living in Australia, this is the first time I am witnessed such a commendable and public achievement by a group of Fijians,” Kevin Stone said.

Kevin Stone encourages more individuals from Fiji to pursue their dreams, just like the inspiring gentlemen who have now joined the Swanhill brigade..

“We first encountered the amazing Josateki Vunimasi on TikTok Live, little did we know the profound impact he would have on our lives,” Kevin said.

“The announcement of his pursuit to become a fireman in Swan Hill, rural Victoria, was met with heartfelt congratulations from all of us members of Mahawa Production.”

Fueled by an overwhelming sense of admiration and friendship, Kevin and three companions embarked on an extraordinary nine-hour drive from Sydney to Swan Hill.

But that was just the beginning of an awe-inspiring display of camaraderie.

“Despite the vastness of Australia’s landscapes, one of our TikTok friends traveled over seven hours from Adelaide, South Australia, to be by Josateki’s side,” Kevin said.

Another ardent companion, residing in Albury, New South Wales, embarked on a four-hour journey to join the celebration. Not to be outdone, a resilient fan of Josateki’s work took a five-hour train ride from Melbourne, determined to be part of the momentous event.

“The distance we each traversed, the time we invested, and the energy we expended to gather in Swan Hill demonstrates the power of unwavering friendship and the indomitable spirit that binds us. In an era dominated by virtual connections, it is truly extraordinary to witness the lengths we are willing to go for genuine connections and shared moments of joy,”Kevin added.

“Our collective journey is a testament to the strength of human bonds and the profound impact that a supportive community can have on one’s aspirations. It serves as a shining example of the courage and determination needed to pursue our dreams, even in the face of adversity and geographical constraints.”

A small group of Fijians organised for the firefighters a vakacirisalusalu, a celebration held for someone who has achieved something great.

In pursuit of his ambition, Josateki made the life-altering decision to join the Palm Scheme in 2020.

This program allowed him the opportunity to work in north-west Victoria, immersing himself in a new culture and embracing new challenges.

Josateki knew that reaching his aspirations would not come easily. The path towards becoming a firefighter demanded sacrifice and resilience.

Leaving behind his beloved village, his family, and the familiarity of his surroundings, he ventured into the

Josateki’s story transcends geographical boundaries. It is a tale that resonates with young people globally, inspiring them to believe in themselves and trust the process, regardless of their circumstances.

From his humble beginnings in Namatakula, he has embarked on a remarkable new journey.

In a world where dreams seem distant, his journey tells us that anything is possible. Josateki Vunimasi prvides hope for young people at the grassroots level.

Through his story, we are reminded that the pursuit of dreams is not confined by borders, but fueled by the fire within our hearts.

  •  AVENAI SERUTABUA is a youth human rights activist and mental health advocate from Nabukelevu Village in Serua. He writes fortnightly articles on rustic living and ‘sights and sounds’ from rural Serua. The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.