Community services


Since 1992, St John of God Ballarat Hospital has supported an exchange program with Vaiola Hospital in Tonga, offering practical support, equipment and education to a facility that was poorly equipped and maintained, and struggling to provide rudimentary health care. 

St John of God Ballarat midwives in Tonga

Initiated by St John of God Ballarat Hospital and in conjunction with the Ballarat West and Nukualofa Rotary Clubs, this program has assisted Vaiola Hospital to develop into a leader in healthcare in the South Pacific.

Tonga Twinning Program

Central to the success of the Tonga Twinning Program is building the capacity of staff at Vaiola Hospital. Through the program, staff from both hospitals complete exchange programs on a regular basis. This gives Tongan staff the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by our caregivers, helping to develop their skills and expertise in their area.

The hospital also provides practical support, such as assistance with developing work practices, policies and procedures and forms, and provides equipment and medical supplies on an ongoing basis.

We support other independent organisations that have helped establish services in the region, including breast screening and digital radiography (Lake Imaging), and ambulance training (South Australian Ambulance Service).

In the future, we will broaden the program's scope to involve community health centres and the outer islands’ health facilities, to further enhance care provided to the Tongan community.

The Tonga Twinning Program is mutually beneficial to both sites, with the ongoing collaborative relationship between the two locations proving to be the most valuable to patients in both countries.


Research is currently being undertaken on the Tonga Twinning Program to understand how participants perceive the program.

The study will evaluate staff perceptions through semi-structured interviews.

While feedback is routinely collected from participants in the program, this is the first broad based formal evaluation to collect data on staff perceptions.