More than 100 Auckland secondary school cultural leaders put on their school uniforms early to represent their school and culture at this year's ASB Polyfest Leaders Conference 2019.
Nerves were obvious as young leaders gathered at Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) for two days filled with guest speakers, cultural master classes, workshops and meeting other student leaders, but these soon subsided to sounds of laughter and introductions as a way of creating connections between student leaders.
For Year 13 students Metui Telefoni (Rosmini College) and Tu'amelie Aho (Otahuhu College), and Hillary College Year 11 student Raymond Tutuila, the Conference has been a chance to make new friends ahead of ASB Polyfest 2019 in March, and share stories about their Polyfest experience.
Raymond, formerly of Wesley College, says this will be his fifth year at ASB Polyfest while Metui and Tu'amelie will perform in their third and last year of Polyfest respectively.
Tu'amelie says it will be sad performing on the Tongan stage for one last time.
“I've enjoyed every year and it's been the best experience,” he says.
Tu'amelie and Metui say being part of ASB Polyfest is a chance to demonstrate their love of their Tongan culture.
For Raymond, ASB Polyfest is an opportunity to represent not only his Tongan connection, but also his Samoan and Fijian background.
"This is about representing who I am and the different cultures I come from,” he says.
The trio agree the ASB Polyfest Leaders Conference has been about making new connections, learning new skills from each of the cultural master classes and workshops, but most of all, being able to share their Polyfest experiences with other students leaders and as they prepare to represent their school and cultures at this year's Polyfest event.
Proud supporters of ASB Polyfest, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) had representatives at the Leaders Conference, including Northern Regional Manager Toleafoa Ray Tuala and Advisor Adrian Mui.
Adrian says it was an opportunity for MPP to network with the ASB Polyfest team, board members present and past, workshop participants and organisations supporting ASB Polyfest 2019.
“The highlight for me was meeting some of the staff, other agencies that will be supporting ASB Polyfest and seeing some of the amazing opportunities available for the young leaders.
“This is a great stepping stone for their leadership development and we want to continue to see more opportunities for our Pacific to develop their leadership skills,” Adrian says.
The 44th edition of ASB Polyfest runs from March 13-16, 2019 at Manukau Sports Bowl.