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Research Overview


  •  This research is the result of several years of engagement by the Policing and Justice Support Program (Vanuatu), in partnership with the Vanuatu Ministry of Justice and Community Services, with funding support from the Australian Government.
  • The research was carried out in July and August 2015 by a team of 10 NiVanuatu researchers and one lead researcher.
  • The research team visited 39 randomly selected villages (selection was carried out with assistance from the Vanuatu National Statistics Office).
  • In total more than 800 men, women, chiefs, police, court officers and key stakeholders were interviewed, across Malekula.

Research Questions

The core research questions included:

  •  What are the main conflicts at community level?
  • How are they managed (from the family level to the level of state justice)?
  • How do people feel about how they are managed?
  • How might state and non-state conflict management be strengthened?

Secondary questions included:

  • How do people understand justice?
  • What are some of the key safety and security issues at the community level?
  • What is the level of knowledge about the law and human rights at the community level?

Other Key Aspects

  • The research primarily considered justice from the citizen’s perspective.
  • A more complex understanding of kastom and chiefs creates a necessary backdrop to this research.
  • Access to justice is about more than geography and resources.
  • Malekula was selected as the research site for several reasons including: size (it has approximately 15% of Vanuatu’s rural population), it hosts a provincial centre, kastom is considered to be strong and enduring, and there is a high prevalence of domestic violence.
  • The research used a predominately quantitative methodology, enriched by opportunities for more qualitative information gathered through focus groups, open ended questions, space in interviews for deeper discussion and inquiry, and regular research debriefs.
  • The research should not be taken as necessarily definitive, but as a contribution to ongoing dialogue, that will ideally inform future decision making and action.