In late 2018, the National Rugby League in Tonga (NRL TONGA) launched the Voice Against Violence (VAV) Programme—an international and non-formal co-educational curriculum that engages young boys and girls, teenagers, adults, parents, and the community in conversations about violence. The goal is to reduce incidents of gender-based violence and encourage gender equality through community engagement and education programs.

VSA volunteer Holly Coulter has been working alongside NRL Tonga’s VAV programme as a Community Development Advisor for gender-based violence and mental health. “The primary focus of the VAV program is to create awareness among the Tongan community, including secondary school students, by developing prevention programs to enable them to understand and speak out against gender-based violence.”

The VAV programme runs a radio show on Radio Nuku’alofa 88.6 FM to broaden NRL’s reach to the community. Radio is widely popular in Tonga and used for public service announcements, including the communication of important government messages, and public health campaigns. This station has coverage across the main island of Tongatapu and the nearby 'Eua island.

Holly Coulter, who’s involved in VAV’s radio show, is now taking a step forward to increase the reach of the programme. The team is gearing up to launch a podcast series that aims to deepen the conversations surrounding gender-based violence.

“A few months ago, we started to pre-record our radio shows from the NRL office. We intend to re-use the relevant shows again to upload them as a podcast. So far, we’ve covered important topics that surround domestic and gender-based violence, gender stereotypes, and cyberbullying, along with having co-hosted a show with the Family Protection Legal Aid Centre. We intend to launch our podcast series with these pre-recorded shows for a start. The aim is to increase our reach in the community and having a wider platform will accelerate conversations against the violence in Tonga.”

As Holly and the team prepare to launch their podcast, much of Holly’s work also involves measuring the impact of the various programmes undertaken for the VAV. “Putting together annual reports was a key task for the team. We had an awesome template for VAV from a previous volunteer, and I expanded that into creating reports for each program and one for the whole organisation - it involved a lot of work, but by the end of the day, it gave us a clear and concise picture of everything we've achieved this year and the impact of the various programs we’ve had,” —a big achievement indeed!

As a Community Development Advisor, Holly’s role includes holistic planning and organising, with a hint of creativity… “We needed to design a lot of new things the past year; billboards, pull-up banners, merchandise - and I've been tasked with designing these. Not something I ever expected to be doing as part of my assignment, but it has been wonderful to develop some new skills and become an amateur graphic designer,” quips Holly as she shares her experience.

While working alongside the NRL continues to encourage Holly professionally, life in Tonga is helping her create lifelong memories… “Tonga is beautiful! The Mapu'a a Vaea blowholes are breathtaking. The best part of living here is that you get to discover all these hidden beaches that you'd never know existed—an experience that cannot be gained with just a visit. And the abundance of fresh produce here is remarkable. It's pineapple season here and everywhere you look, it is the sweetest fresh pineapple! I'm enjoying challenging myself and the personal growth it’s giving me”.