THE warrior chant rang loud. Drums beat, children cried out and Julia Gillard - draped in flowers as the visiting chief - rose gently on the shoulders of a dozen fighting men.
The pa'ata (raised platform) held aloft the Australian Prime Minister, the traditional litter wrapped in palm fronds carrying its smiling and waving guest past a cheering crowd of Cook Islanders.
And the cry of the Cook Island children? Aussie, Aussie Aussie!
The spectacular entrance marked the official opening of the Pacific Islands Forum, Ms Gillard the last of the 14 Pacific leaders to parade amid the dazzling colour and dancers spinning an island-style greeting.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna then turned on a sonorous tune, taking hold of the microphone to sing a personal welcome to the biggest event in the country since the Queen visited nearly four decades before.
''It's not the way I normally begin multilateral meetings, but I was happy to participate with all of the other leaders in the Cook Islands custom,'' Ms Gillard said later.
The true business of the forum gets under way today, with Ms Gillard - Australia's first female PM and the only woman among the dignitaries - set to reveal a massive $320 million personal initiative to raise the status of women in the Pacific.
''As the only woman attending the forum, the only female leader, I will be focusing on gender equality,'' she told reporters after landing, adding the issue was not simply about men and women having equal treatment but helping economic development.
The region has one of the lowest proportions of female politicians in the world, a dismal 3.5 per cent compared with a global average of 20 per cent.
The much anticipated presence at the forum of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the world's most powerful female leaders, will only serve to underline the gender inequity in Pacific politics.
Former Chilean president and United Nations chief for women's development, Michelle Bachelet, said the Pacific was missing out on the capacity and talent of women. ''I've been president of my country, I've been a minister for defence, so I know what women can do,'' Mrs Bachelet told The Age.
Ms Gillard said she would also meet Nauru and Papua New Guinea's leaders to hammer out the final agreement for reviving the Pacific Solution.