COVID-19 has impacted New Zealand’s Pacific community in its entirety.
Being unable to gather to farewell loved ones at funerals and tangihanga is one aspect which is proving particularly challenging for Pacific communities.
Luana Michael, Manager and Funeral Director at Manukau City’s Ese Tatupu Funeral Directors and Mortuary Embalmers says it has been a very unusual experience.
“It is something we have never experienced in our little country of Aotearoa,” she says.
The Funeral Directors Association (FDANZ) and New Zealand Embalmers Association (NZEA) have issued guidelines outlining funeral home health and safety practises during the lockdown period which Ese Tatupu Funeral Directors are following.
Funeral service gatherings and tangihanga will not be allowed, however, last week the Ministry of Health amended some of the rules about families viewing their loved ones during the lockdown period.
People from a deceased person’s bubble are now able to view the body and this happens under strict rules and guidance.
Some of the set rules go against Pacific culture and religious beliefs and in a “normal” situation, there is no way Pacific people would not be buried or cremated without a funeral service or a family gathering, Luana says.
Yet, it is so important for the Pacific community to understand why these rules are in place, why there is a lockdown, and most importantly the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic happening around the world.
“The lockdown will save the lives of their family members and others – especially our vulnerable and elderly family members.”
These rules put in place during alert level four for when loved ones have passed away apply to everyone, every culture, every religion.
This means ways of engaging with one another, as well as peoples’ cultural and traditional practices must change.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) has compiled some information to support Pacific communities during these difficult times, but also uphold the Ministry of Health COVID-19 alert level four Funerals and Tangihanga advice.
Visit HERE to read the Pacific Funeral Guideline in English, which is also available in various Pacific languages.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website.