Growing up, young Walter wanted to make a positive difference for his people. He thought hard about what he could do. Should he follow the common paths for educated Melanesians and do law, medicine or teaching? Walter decided to study for priesthood in the Anglican Church in New Zealand. Little did he know that he would become the first Prime Minister of a new country.
As a young priest, Walter observed many injustices against his fellow islanders under the joint colonial rule of Britain and France. His main concern was the sale of indigenous land to foreigners. "The land was being taken away from under our noses!" he said. Walter was not going to sit back and do nothing. “Political power must be gained first and [then we must] protect ni-Vanuatu from becoming servants in our own land,” he said.
Together with other islanders, Walter formed the New Hebrides Culture Association as a way to bring political change and chase away the colonial powers. He started the New Hebrides Viewpoints newspaper, using his literary skills to build understanding across the islands about the value of Independence.
This soon became a political movement that led to the formation of the New Hebrides National Party (later the Vanua’aku Pati). Using this political platform, Walter made many powerful speeches to build popular support for Independence, linked to land rights.
Walter was chosen to lead the party and became the first Prime Minister of Vanuatu on 30 July 1980. The name ‘Vanuatu’ was chosen because it means ‘our land forever’. Walter said in blessing of the new nation, “Small is beautiful and powerful”.
"Stand guard against foreign interests taking advantage of a young nation."
Father Walter Lini
This story is from the Vanuatu Children’s Book “Taf Tumas! Different Journeys, Once People.”
Author : Mere Sovick
Artist : Izzy Regenvanu