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Increase in kava importation to Australia strongly supported by the Brisbane Tongan Community

4 May 2019

Brisbane, AUSTRALIA: The Australian Government conducted a consultation process through a Pilot Program to ease restrictions on the importation of kava for personal use into Australia.

The Pilot Program is a result of comments made by the Australia Prime Minister, Hon. Scott Morrison, during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Hon. Charlot Salawi Tabimasmas in Port Vila, Vanuatu on 16 January 2019.

“We have agreed that we would be working to put a pilot program together to ease some of the limitations on importation of kava into Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“But that is an expression of our interest in developing trade in the region. Kava is an important product which is produced here [in Vanuatu] and has a great and successful market around the world,” Scott Morrison added.

The Prime Minister’s support for further consultation on an increase of importation of kava into Australia is further echoed by the Tongan diaspora in Australia, including Brisbane’s vibrant Tongan Community.

The three areas that the pilot program is focussed on include the proposal to increase the quantity of kava that may be imported for personal use to 4kg; approach to evaluate the pilot program after two years; and the duration of the pilot program.

There are in excess of 10 regular kava clubs in Brisbane who meet regularly and consume kava. Aside from the cultural and some added health benefits of kava consumption, the kava clubs serve as key ingredients in the successful recipe of the Brisbane Tongan Community.

Sia Melie Kava Club with a member of the youth, before he leaves to Tonga to attend Tupou College

From providing a place of resilience for Tongan men and a mechanism to avoid early signs of mental health, the kava clubs also provide the financial backbone to fund raising ventures for community development and visitors from the Kingdom of Tonga.

President of the Brisbane Tongan Community steering committee, Rev. Maile Molitika, who is a member of the Sia Melie Kava Club in Moorooka added that kava has a strong musical element seldom acknowledged outside the kava circle.

“Not only do the kava clubs provide music for traditional dancing during weddings, birthdays and fund raisers, but we also keep alive the compositions of Tongan composers and musicians both past and present.”

In 2018 the Mamana Tongan Academy of Performing Arts celebrated the importance of cultural and musical preservation by holding a massive concert that included an inter-club competition where kava clubs had to compose a musical melody to accompany lyrics composed by a local Tongan composer. The result was outstanding and the collaborative recordings are receiving ongoing airplay on Radio 4EB FM’s Voice of Tonga radio programme for the enjoyment of a larger audience.

The Brisbane Tongan Community Incorporated provided a strong submission during the consultation process that closed on 22 March 2019 through the Department of Health’s Office of Drug Control.

A link to the Brisbane Tongan Community’s submission can be found via this link.

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