News Release

Australians from Kiribati Celebrate


Many Australians whose roots are from Kiribati, along with their family and friends, joined together on 14 July 2018 to celebrate the 39th Anniversary of Kiribati Independence. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints originally from Kiribati, as well as members from other faiths were present for this grand Kiribati Independence Day celebration in Melbourne on Saturday evening.

Reese Masita, current president of the Victorian Kiribati Association, and a member of the Deer Park Stake (diocese) of the LDS Church, along with her committee spearheaded the highly successful event. The evening attracted an enormous crowd, and included food, entertainment and lively conversation with friends new and old.

Reese said concerning the event, “I’ve been on this committee for about six years now and I’m someone who loves this [Kiribati] culture and wanted to bring it with us into the Australian environment. We’re all away from home and if we don’t have nights like this to celebrate our culture then it starts to disappear. So, it means a lot to me to have this night.”

When asked about the culture of Kiribati, Reese responded, “It’s a very vibrant, warm, friendly, and loving culture.  Actually, it’s a very spiritual culture as well. It’s a small community but has retained that tight-knit feeling.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was first introduced in Kiribati on 19 October 1975. Waitea Abiuta, a school teacher and headmaster of a school in Kiribati asked to have graduates from his school attend Liahona High School in Tonga. Twelve students were approved to come to the Church school in Tonga. Those students became converted to the LDS Church at Liahona High School. They were called to serve as missionaries in 1975. Starting in 1985 and for many years thereafter, Norman Cross, an Australian LDS Church member, built 10 chapels in the tiny island nation. Since 1975, the Church has grown in Kiribati to around 19,690 members.

In Australia, there is a large number of people from Kiribati who now call Australia their home, but will always love their island roots.

Lis Newnham of the Heidelberg Stake (diocese) said, “I love to celebrate with my fellow I-Kiribati people that have left the island and have come here to Melbourne. Getting together tonight reminds us of where we grew up and what we did.”

All involved feel it was a very successful celebration.

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