Leading public servant honoured in university awards

27 Oct 2023
Dr Raijeli Taga (R) at the UQ Awards Ceremony alongside Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deborah Terry and Raymond Mohammed.

Dr Raijeli Taga, Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, has received The University of Queensland’s (UQ) International Alumnus of the Year Award in recognition of her contribution to Pacific Island development, sustainability, gender equality, environmental health and work with Indigenous communities.

Originally from the village of Rukua in Beqa, Dr Taga grew up in the Fijian capital Suva where she completed her education and started her career as a graduate trainee with the Ministry.

Driven by a love of science, she received the Australian Leadership Award in 2007 to study a Master of Philosophy at UQ, which ultimately focused on characterising and assessing the risk of metals and metalloids related to mining.

“My interest in mining and the environment specifically began at the Mineral Resources Department laboratory, seeing the expatriate staff from Australia who came to work in Fiji, to conduct research to inform policy decisions,” Dr Taga said.

Dr Taga then undertook her PhD at UQ Sustainable Minerals Institute’s (SMI) Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation where her interest was in the historical heavy metal and metalloid contamination surrounding the Mt Isa mine in Queensland.

“Lead contamination particularly in children had become a high profile and concerning issue for many families, and my research focused on improving the reliability of measuring the absorption of dust and soil through the body via the blood,” Dr Taga said.

After completing her studies, Dr Taga returned home to Fiji and her role in the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources.

Among her many achievements is her work leading the reform of the Fiji Employment Relations Act to remove Section 88, which prohibited the employment of women in underground mines. The bill passed on International Women’s Day 2018.

Dr Raijeli Taga with colleagues from SMI's Development Minerals Programme.

She represented the Fijian government at several Forums, including the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development, and helped initiate the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Tsunami Ready Recognition Programme.

As Facilitator for the Informal Working Group (IWG) on the Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment, Dr Taga had a significant influence on environmental regulations for Deep Sea Mining and was an advocate for Indigenous communities concerned by the industry’s potential impacts.

Dr Taga has also remained in contact with her colleagues at the SMI's Development Minerals Programme and was integral to establishing the Blue Concrete Initiative – a partnership which aims to build resilience in regional raw material supply chains and create a sustainable and affordable source of concrete for infrastructure. 

Speaking of her successes, Dr Taga said she is grateful for the opportunities she has been given in education and at work.

“If I change or positively impact the lives of people I work with, I am thankful for that opportunity. Small changes lead to big changes."

Media: Connor Pound, Media Officer, c.pound@uq.edu.au, +61 447 812 081.