Childhood & Early Life
Ralph Regenvanu was born on 20 September 1970 in Suva, Fiji. His father Sethy Regenvanu would later on become a prominent politician. His Australian-born mother Dorothy Rutter was a pastor in the Presbyterian Church. He has four younger brothers.
His family left Fiji for Australia when Ralph was three years old. They eventually moved back to Vanuatu.
Ralph Regenvanu went to Australia for his higher education and enrolled at the Australian National University where he studied anthropology, archeology and development studies. He obtained an Honor’s degree in development studies in 1991. The ‘Les Nouvelles calédoniennes’ described him as "Vanuatu's first anthropologist".
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Ralph Regenvanu returned to Vanuatu after receiving his degree and took up a job as a curator of the national Museum of Vanuatu.
He had been engaged in documenting cultural sites on a number of Vanuatu islands and by drawing on this experience he helped to formulate the Vanuatu Cultural Research Policy in 1992. The policy became operational in 1994.
He along with a few other like-minded individuals founded the Pacific Islands Museums Association in 1994. Three years later, he became a member of its inaugural Executive Board in 1997. He remained on the Board till 2009.
He emphasized on the importance of preserving cultural heritage while being open to Western developments. He felt that a negotiation between traditional culture and western culture was necessary for the sustainable development of a nation.
He always advocated advancing the interests of local cultures and has made numerous attempts to highlight the importance of native customs and their relevance in present-day society. He has been described as "a world authority on custom” because of his in-depth knowledge about the customs and traditions of the world.
He was in favor of using the customary law as opposed to a legal system derived from British and French models, and thus in 2000 initiated the Juvenile Justice Project, an attempt to bring customary law into the state law system when dealing with juvenile offenders.
In 2008, he announced his intention to stand for election to Parliament. This decision of his was met with positive feedback from the media and the people in general. As an idealistic and charismatic individual, he was seen as a potential political leader.
In September 2008 he was elected to Vanuatu's parliament representing Port Vila as an independent candidate. At the time of his election, it was reported that he had received a record number of votes—a testimony to his popularity.
In 2009 he started a program to finance a "Youth Solidarity Micro-Credit Scheme" out of his parliamentary allocation. This scheme was focused on providing loans to small entrepreneurs to assist them in setting up their own small business projects in order to encourage emerging local businesses.
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The Prime Minister Sato Kilman appointed him as the Minister of Cooperatives and ni-Vanuatu Business Development in 2010. A few months later the Cabinet was reshuffled and Regenvanu was appointed Minister for Lands.
He is also much interested in music and has played in bands in Australia. He played a key role in establishing the annual musical festival ‘Fest'Napuan’, which is described by the Vanuatu Tourism Office as "the premier cultural event of the year”. The festival is also one of the major music festivals in the South Pacific.
Several musicians from all over the world participate in the festival which attracts thousands of people every year. Musicians from the Solomon Islands, Fiji, West Papua, Easter Island, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand have taken part in the event.
In 2010, Ralph Regenvanu announced that the year’s theme for the festival would be “Women in Music”. He played an active role in organizing the festival and aimed to promote female musicians from around the pacific.
In March 2011 he became the Minister of Justice and Social Affairs. In this position he brought about an amendment of the Law Commission Act "to provide a role for chiefs, churches, women and youth in screening all bills before they came before Parliament".
In the October 2012 general election he was re-elected to a second term as a Member of Parliament. He currently serves as the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, an office he assumed in March 2013.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006, he was awarded the title of Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) by the Government of France, for his work in the field of culture.
The same year he was also honored with the title of Libehkamel Tah Tomat (Caretaker of the Sacred Nakamal) by Chief Matthias Batick of the Nende people of South West Bay, Malakula.