A secret agent for change-Donald Kalpokas

As initially announced over the weekend, this National Children’s Day will be marked by a key milestone, launching of Vanuatu’s first ever non-fiction children’s storybook about inspiring ni-Vanuatu.

The book is published by the Vanuatu Children’s Literature Community Initiative to celebrate the 40th independence anniversary. The beautifully illustrated 180-page hardback book presents 40 diverse stories for children, parents and teachers to read together. Called ‘Taf Tumas! Different journeys, one people’, it will be launched as part of the official independence anniversary programme on Friday 24 July. This is just the first story in this series. Others will be featured over the next editions, as well as on radio and social media.

Kalpokas was born when Vanuatu was under the colonial rule of Britain and France. He spent his childhood roaming his island until the mission church said he had to go to school.

At school, Kalpokas was given the English first name ‘Donald’. He had been reluctant to go to school but he was a natural student, and went on to study in Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Fiji. This opened his eyes to indigenous rights – the rights of the original people of the land.

Returning home, Donald could see that New Hebrideans were not free.

They were not even allowed to have their own national identity! So, Donald and his cousin Peter Taurakoto hatched a plan to set their country free.

They set up the New Hebrides Cultural Association and shared their ideas with other political activists, including Walter Lini who became Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister.

This grew into the Independence movement, engaging secret agents all over the islands to deliver coded messages to prepare for change. Many were women and chiefs. Donald worked in the colonial administration, influencing from the inside. “Change must come from within!” he said to friends.

The cousins installed a secret radio station on the highest point of Lelepa.

At night, brave Donald would climb the mountain to broadcast news about the movement over a secret frequency for Independence supporters across the country.

As the Independence movement grew, it became riskier for supporters. Meetings had to be secret, with decoys being planted to trick the authorities about their location.

But they succeeded, helping Vanuatu gain Independence in 1980. Donald was Prime Minister of Vanuatu two times. Sadly, he passed away in 2019.


Who am I?

I am that third citizen of my country,

The only condominium in the world.”

Donald Kalpokas

From Who am I?

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