The impact of COVID has for Pacific Islanders living in Australia had an unexpected cultural impact: local supplies of kava are running low and prices have skyrocketed because of a combination of international border closures and an effective ban on commercial imports.
Kava is a sacred and traditional plant medicine for people of the pacific islands. In Australia We have witnessed a sad increase in violence in the Pacific Island community over the past months. The fear among Pacific Islanders is that violence is increasing partly because of the misguided ban on commercial importation of kava, which was introduced several years ago.
COVID has made the availability of Kava even more hard to source. The only way to obtain kava legally in Australia is to bring it in from overseas yourself, most commonly on a flight from a Pacific island country.
The kava drought has affected ceremonies for births, deaths and weddings where the consumption of kava is an important traditional feature, as well as contributed to a decline in social activities amongst pacific islanders living in Australia, particularly amongst Fijian and Tongan Communities.
After vocal lobbying from Pacific islands governments, the Australian government agreed to increase the amount of kava people can bring into the country for personal use from two to four kilograms.
A long awaited trial of commercial imports of kava but that has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.