Suva, Fiji, January 31, 2023– Akosita Valamalua previously held the position of Principal Customs Officer and then as Executive Transformation Support at the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service. She was recently appointed Expert Trainer at the World Customs Organisation Asia Pacific office based in Brussels, becoming the first Pacific islander to join the WCO. This is a brief interview with her before she took up her new posting.
- Can you describe your journey in Customs?
My journey in Customs started in November, 2008 when I joined the then Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority as a Customs Officer posted at the Nadi Port. From the first day, I never looked back and I worked towards meeting day to day deliverables.
Growing up, one sentence that I will constantly hear during family devotion and in church is “Without a vision, people perish”, and I as young primary school student I always wondered what it meant. I started to understand as I grew older, with a lot of inner searching of what my goal is, I then realized that to understand my goal and vision in life, I need to seek God’s purpose and plan- that is the ultimatum.
It was on my first day of orientation at Nadi Airport that I found my passion in Customs and over the years I found what I wanted to do and where I want to be. The drive to know more pushed me to read and understand the work policies and working documents to better function in my role.
I am usually a shy person around a new environment and around people but I was blessed with friendly and welcoming officers who offered to help me as a new recruit.
From Nadi Port, I was transferred to Suva Port and in 2013 I was promoted to Senior Customs Officer, working around other areas of Customs. In 2017 I was promoted to Principal Customs Officer. The journey was challenging and tough but this is what made it all exciting as well. In October 2021, my career came to an abrupt halt for three months and what I had initially thought was the end became a season of preparation and conditioning for me and I kept the faith. I resumed in January 2022 and was promoted to an additional role of Executive Transformation Support assisting the then Acting Director Border and Head of Customs till my exit.
- Did you always want to be a Customs Officer?
Honestly, no. I had wanted to be a Laboratory Technology assistant while I was at University and the urge to switch program happened when I was just not “feeling it”. I wanted to try something new and I landed on this path.
- What have been the major highlights of your career?
For me, every little achievement is a massive accomplishment and I am always thankful for every accomplishment. I’ve always seen achievements differently, if I am in a better position to provide more than the normal for my family, mom and dad -that is an achievement. However, a highlight for me would be when I was nominated by the Australian Border Force at the Australasian Council of Women Awards in Sydney in 2022. To be nominated under the Excellence in Law Enforcement in the Pacific category 2022 was an honor.
- Were there any challenges you faced during your service in Fiji?
Yes. I did face a lot of challenges in my career. What is important is having a good support system, family and friends that will continue to encourage us during those times.
- This is a major step for you, moving to a role that serves the Asia Pacific region, What are you thoughts on this new posting- did you ever think you will be serving the Asia Pacific region?
Not really, not the Asia Pacific, I was only thinking about serving in the Pacific Region and to assist them with capacity building and other developments in Customs, but I guess God always has other plans. This platform has opened other regions for me , Pacific included of course and it’s more than the Asia Region as well. I am excited about this new journey and what I will learn from it.
- Where do you see yourself in five years In 5 years?
I see myself growing in this new adventure and in my capability provide assistance to Customs in the Pacific Region, and I still have Fiji at heart too.
- Any final comments or advice?
I wish to encourage women in Customs and women in the law enforcement area to find their passion and run with it: “Your greatest limit is YOU, change starts with YOU, stepping out starts with YOU, changing mindsets starts with YOU and lastly respect one another and always have a good heart.
For more information, queries, or interview requests, please email MediaOCO@ocosec.org
About OCO: OCO is a grouping of 23 customs administrations in the Pacific region. It facilitates regional cooperation, information sharing and capacity building of its members with the overall target of supporting economic growth and improved border security in the Pacific.