Women, men, young and old sought legal advice under the tent of the Legal Aid Commission at Tavua District School (Photo: UNDP)

Do you care who will receive your property and money when you pass on? Transferring your assets to your loved ones with no stress and confusion is a major concern when you reach certain age.  But how does one go about arranging their will?

Abdu Ahmed Nabi was one of those who did not have a will for his children and was worried about what would happen in the event of his death; but his fears were assuaged when he sat with an officer from the Legal Aid Commission.

“I am 68 years old. I wanted to make sure my property will be distributed equally to all my three children. I’ve managed to write my will with assistance from a legal aid officer”, said Mr Nabi.

One Saturday morning, under the dazzling sun in the Western part of Fiji, a team from the Legal Aid Commission set up their tents and banners at Tavua District School located in the centre of Tavua town to provide legal services directly to the people of the small town and surrounding areas.

Fiji’s Legal Aid Commission has been expanding its operation across the country, with 17 offices, including the latest which opened in Taveuni in Vanua Levu, and five more to be launched this year. It is the most developed and best financed legal aid institution in the Pacific region, and some may say a leader globally. The staff remain keen to come out of their offices to meet and serve more people. 

The Legal Aid Commission has been conducting Roadshows in major towns and cities around the country since November 2018, to make their services accessible to more people, including those from the rural areas. The roadshows are convenient for people to access the services when they come to town for their business and shopping on Saturdays. 

Flyers were distributed in and around Tavua town in advance and on the day.

Whilst the children play on the bouncy castle set up next to the legal aid tents, their mothers and fathers seek guidance and assistance from the legal aid staff.

The Acting Director of the Legal Aid Commission Shahin Ali said, “The Roadshow is an opportunity for our officers to meet members of the public, inform them of our services and provide the services on the spot. The Commission ensures everyone, including people who cannot afford private legal services, has access to justice.”

The Legal Aid Commission has been supported in part by the Fiji Access to Justice Project funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In partnership with the Legal Aid Commission and other key justice institutions and civil society organisations, the project supports access to justice for impoverished and vulnerable groups through empowering people to access legal rights and services while strengthening those key justice institutions to undertake improved service delivery. 

At the Legal Aid Roadshow in Tavua on 23 March, 16 staff, including Legal Officers, Registry Officers, Client Information Officers headed by Acting Director of the Legal Aid Commission, were busy providing information to passers-by of the roadshow, attending to people coming into the tents, and providing legal aid services. People brought many concerns to the attention of the officers seeking their advice, such as transfer of land titles and, as with Mr. Nabi, making their wills.

Mr Ali advised that having a will is not only for rich and wealthy people. Regardless of how much the person has, a will ensures her/his last wish, and the Legal Aid Commission’s Civil Law experts are available to provide assistance.

Among the officers who attended to people during the roadshow in Tavua were Grace Henao, Legal Officer from Tavua office, Alparti Tataiya, Registry Officer covering Tavua and Rakiraki, and Sarita Shahini Lata, Client Information Officer from Tavua office, and here they share their work with the Legal Aid Commission.


Grace Henao - Legal Officer, Tavua Office

Why do you work with the Legal Aid Commission?

I wanted to help both those who cannot afford private legal services and marginalized communities.

What made you become a lawyer and supporting them?

I was born in Papua New Guinea, where my parents were both school teachers, in a rural area with limited basic services. The environment we were in with local communities made me feel that everyone should have access to public services. Since I was a small girl, I have been good at speaking and so my parents used to tell me I should become a lawyer and here I am.

What makes you happy in your work?

I have met so many people and supported their cases. I am glad that I was able, among all other important cases, to support single mothers who struggle for their children. Although the Commission has been conducting awareness raising activities at community level, I think there is still a need to raise more awareness on legal rights and the services the Commission provides. The Roadshows are a good way to do this.

Alparti Tataiya - Registry Officer, Tavua and Rakiraki Offices

Why do you work with the Legal Aid Commission?

I wanted to be part of serving people and providing services free to those who cannot afford.

What made you support them?

In 2006, I had a vehicle accident and was seriously injured. The doctor told me I could die in a few hours, but fortunately I survived. That event was a turning point in my life, which made me decide to move on with what has been inspiring me. Soon after I recovered from the injuries I quit my previous job as a sales person in a supermarket and joined the Legal Aid Commission.

What makes you happy in your work?

I feel good when I am able to support people like the elderly in our communities who need legal assistance but cannot afford private services.

Sarita Shahini Lata - Client Information Officer, Tavua Office

Why do you work with the Legal Aid Commission?

It is meaningful to me to be able to support people when they are in difficult situations.

What made you support them?

I worked with private law firms as law clerk which is a paralegal for 13 years, where I met many people who could not receive legal services because they could not afford it. I felt for them in their circumstances. That is why I joined the Legal Aid Commission.

What makes you happy in your work?

I wished to become a lawyer when I was young, but my family could not afford my higher education to become a lawyer. I am delighted when many clients who come to our office remember me and ask me to attend them.


By supporting the Legal Aid Commission as part of the EU-funded Fiji Access to Justice Project, UNDP contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 5, which is to advance gender equality and empower women and girls, and Goal 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

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