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About the Project

Over the last decade, tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders have participated in temporary labour migration to Australia and New Zealand through the newly renamed Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme and the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme. As participation has increased, concerns have been raised about the schemes’ social impacts, including those on children and families. Despite being the largest demographic group in the Pacific, the voices of young people have been notably lacking from labour mobility research. Focusing on the experiences of young people living in migrant households in Port Vila, Vanuatu, this project utilised participatory photography to explore the everyday social realities of living ‘together, apart’.

The research involved a photography skills workshop co-facilitated with our project partner, local grassroots NGO Wan Smolbag Yut Senta. After the workshop, participants were provided with digital cameras and given a week to document their perspectives of how family separation during labour mobility has shaped their lives and communities. These cameras were then donated to Wan Smolbag as a community resource to support future skills building and creative projects.

Dr Matt Withers, Australian National University

Dr Kirstie Petrou, Griffith University

Jeanette Tanghwa, Vanuatu Department of Labour


We would like to thank the young people involved in this project who took these photos and generously shared their time and lived experiences of family separation in Vanuatu.

We would also like to thank Wan Smolbag Yut Senta, particularly Rik Hinton and Flinda Solomon, and express our appreciation for the ongoing support of the Vanuatu Government’s Department of Labour and Employment Services.

This project was funded as part of an Australian National University Futures Scheme grant. Ethics clearance was provided through Griffith University (2023/627).

Photography & captions: Andrina, Annika, Ceddrick, Dorothy, Eliza, Frank, Julian, Lily, Lino, Robinson, and Shirley

Translation: Kirstie Petrou

Website & zine design: Ezreena Yahya

To cite this project: Withers, M., Petrou, K. and Tanghwa, J. 2023. Together, Apart: Youth Perspectives of Labour Mobility in Vanuatu. Australian National University: Canberra.

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