Darren Folau’s lived experience has sparked a renewed vigour and energy inside of him, to enable Pacific people to be the change in Aotearoa and in the wider Pacific.
As the Regional Partnerships; Community Initiatives Manager: Southern, based in Christchurch, Darren plays an integral role at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), engaging with Pacific communities and stakeholders in the southern region about any issues concerning them, and also ways to support their wellbeing and livelihoods.
The proud Tagata Niue grew up in central Auckland suburb Mt Roskill, and says he enjoyed a great neighbourhood from a wide tapestry of immigrant cultures before moving to Christchurch in 2008.
“For me, growing up Pacific enabled me to identify my core values very early and service to community was instilled from a young age - knowing and living our values stands Pacific people apart,” Darren says.
Prior to joining MPP last year, Darren spent 28 years working as a Police Officer – based in Counties-Manukau from 1990-2008, and in Canterbury from 2008-2018.
“I have had a blessed career where I enjoyed a wide range of roles…mostly, I worked in the Criminal Investigation Branch and as well as investigating serious crime, specialised in diverse areas of Child Protection, National Security and Organised Crime.
“I’ve been fortunate to have travelled the Pacific region and the globe in coaching, investigating crime and peace keeping roles.
“Of many achievements, I will always remember fondly my role in the genesis of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) in 2002, where all Pacific nations worked in partnership, collaboratively to bring peace, security and stability back to the region.”
This was a true exercise in seeing how Pacific led solutions solved Pacific problems, Darren adds.
In 2015, he was deployed back to the Solomon Islands mentoring the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in the post-RAMSI environment.
“I lived there for almost five years until I returned to New Zealand. As an Aotearoa New Zealand born Pacific Islander, it was not until I had been immersed in a Pacific culture and life that I really unlocked the true essence and cultural element of my Pacific identity.
“I can happily report I can plant taro and cassava, fish from a canoe and still climb a coconut tree (getting down is the challenge).”
Darren has found his switch to working for MPP rewarding, he says.
“I got hooked from the very moment I read Lalanga Fou - how can you not be excited about the vision of this strategy and the leadership that steers it?
“Being a small part of the delivery and implementation of it fills me happiness.”
Darren was and still is a strong advocate of the New Zealand Police Crime Prevention Strategy, which focuses on a solutions-based approach to the drivers of crime.
“It enabled fresh thinking and innovation to prevent crime rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and similarly, Lalanga Fou provides me with direction that was determined by our own Pacific people with the emphasis of enabling and empowering positive growth and sustainable development of all Pacific people.
“Being part of the Regional Partnerships team allows me to work at the grass roots level with our Pacific communities and for me getting to learn about the demands of everyday life, the amazing projects and meeting our inspiring, innovative, creative and hard-working community minded people is my reward.”
Certain he is also speaking for his Ministry colleagues; Darren says being children of the Pacific means we never leave the office and the heart and love for our communities and families is intrinsically linked to the work we do.
While we all have ideals and challenges we want to influence change in, Darren says he would like to turn the tables on all the adverse statistics that sadly pervade our society.
Topping his list would be a Pacific Aotearoa free from violence against women and children; a Pacific Aotearoa population that are healthy, fit and strong enough to completely eradicate chronic illnesses and preventable diseases; a Pacific Aotearoa where every Pacific child is learning their beautiful and unique language; and where Pacific people are armed with the skills to and knowledge to be financially capable to make choices where they want to live and work.
“I realise these are lofty goals, but I know that in the short time I have worked for the Ministry I have seen the energy, passion and drive from people from our communities and the amazing talent and skills our MPP family possess; there is no reason that this cannot be the reality.”
Work for MPP
We are growing and looking for passionate people to share the voice of our Pacific communities.
Our current vacancies are on the MPP job website, and keep watching as our team will be growing over the coming months.
If you, or someone you know is interested – reach out to us at [email protected].