Tom Budd visits Solomon Islands

“I found my visit with Cameron Oxley to be very educational and productive. We have a St John Establishment in Solomon Islands that is doing amazing work in a very challenging environment. We are fortunate to have staff there who are young, full of enthusiasm, well-trained, focused on delivering high-quality service, and devoted to the values that all of us embrace.”

Solomon Islands is a country in the South Pacific Ocean to the north of Australia and the east of Papua New Guinea. It comprises six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands, spread over more than 29,000 square kilometres. It has a coastline of more than 5,000 kilometres long.

St John has an Establishment in Solomon Islands: St John Ambulance Solomon Islands. In the absence of a state ambulance service, St John provides the country’s primary emergency ambulance service. We have a team of well-trained, highly motivated, committed and professional paramedics and nurses, utilizing ambulances donated mainly from Australia and New Zealand.

Our staff and volunteers face many challenges. The road network is underdeveloped and often in poor condition. On the island of Guadalcanal, where the capital city Honiara is located, the road network extends to only part of the island and there are many villages which cannot be accessed with an ambulance. Trained mechanics capable of maintaining an ambulance are few and far between, and spare parts are scarce. Fuel supplies can be intermittent. Patients on other islands needing care often have to be transported by boat or light aircraft.



Our ambulances bring patients to the country’s main hospital, the National Referral Hospital. It was originally constructed by the United States Army during World War II (the defining naval battle of the Pacific War, Guadalcanal, took place in Honiara). The hospital has been expanded piecemeal in the years since then. It suffers from overcrowding, lack of modern equipment, poor sanitation and shortages of pharmaceuticals and other medication. It is common for the families of patients to join them in the hospital – in part, to give emotional support and in part to provide food, clothes, bedding and laundry services to them.

The geographical and socioeconomic challenges faced by the government health service in Solomon Islands makes the first responder role of St John Ambulance absolutely crucial.

"Many lives have been saved in recent years through the prompt intervention of our skilled staff and volunteers."

In addition to ambulance services, St John plays an important role in disaster response and relief. Solomon Islands’ proximity to the equator and the island geography lead to very high levels of humidity, and cyclones and other storms are prevalent. According to World Risk Report 2021, Solomon Islands ranks second among the countries with the highest disaster risk in the world.

St John also plays an important role in the provision of first aid training and services. During the Recent Pacific Games that were held in Honiara, St John was the primary contractor for ambulance and medical services at the main games venues, deploying a substantial number of local nurses and nursing students from Solomon Islands National University.

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As part of my visit to St John Ambulance Solomon Islands, Cameron Oxley, Chancellor of St John Ambulance Australia, and I oversaw the Investiture Ceremony of Duty Operations Manager, Mr Launceston Tura.

All of us can be proud of what St John Ambulance personnel have achieved in Solomon Islands. It is a small organisation, operating in a place with very significant geographical, socioeconomic, political and financial challenges, and making a huge difference to the lives of those whom they serve. They offer a fine example of St John’s values in action, taking forward our mission to provide high-quality first aid, medical and community healthcare to those in greatest need.

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