Major Mikaele Dreu has spent the past few months working in a very familiar environment in Fiji.
CAPTION: Specialist Army engineers assess school infrastructure in need of urgent repair during the reconstruction efforts in Fiji. Story by Captain Michael Trainor.
Major Dreu, a Fijian expat and now a serving officer in the ADF, is the liaison officer for deployed Australian forces supporting reconstruction efforts in the country following tropical cyclones Yasa and Ana.
Directly supporting the ADF’s Joint Task Force 637, Major Dreu provides a critical link between the ADF, the Australian High Commission and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
With deep family and personal connections across the country, Major Dreu has proved invaluable in assisting the ADF understand the needs of local communities.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic to come back home to Fiji. It’s been my dream to come back and help the RFMF,” Major Dreu said.
“My job is to speak with all of the stakeholders and support our ADF reconstruction teams. As a Fijian, I can relate to the community very easily.”
After serving 16 years in the Fijian Army, including three tours in the Middle East, Major Dreu made the decision to conduct a lateral transfer to the ADF, completing the transition in 2006.
Currently posted to Headquarters 1st Division/ Deployable Joint Force Headquarters in the Plans Branch, he is making good use of his close personal and professional connections.
“A lot of the senior Army officers or government officials are my cousins or relatives, or I went to school, uni, played rugby, or attended the same church with them and I’ve known them all my life, or for a long time,” Major Dreu said.
“The reconstruction teams keep joking that everywhere we go there is a cousin or a niece, nephew or uncle.
“I just have to explain that in Fiji the culture fosters family and whatever our relationship, we enhance it and we cultivate and keep the relationships that we have.”
The ADF mission in Fiji has been focused on the planning and reconstruction of education facilities across several schools, such as rebuilding classrooms at the Lekutu Secondary School on Vanua Levu.
As part of the scope of works, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ADF and RFMF engineers meet the local community business leaders and officials, in addition to familiarising themselves with local building codes and requirements.
“The local communities have seen the work that the engineer teams, especially the project management team, have done already and they have become fully immersed in and adopted into the community,” Major Dreu said.
“The people are over the moon to have us here in this current environment, and for the community to see the machinery working to demolish and clear the building sites and the laying of new classroom foundations; it has created a real sense of hope.
“I have just been so humbled and honoured to be able to wear the Australian uniform and come back home to Fiji to assist the local community rebuild. This is Vuvale in action and in deed not just words. This is the unique strength of our relationship,” he said.
Major Dreu is due to return to Australia in October but is hopeful to return to Fiji as soon as possible to continue reconstruction efforts.