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Language key component of Pacific identity

Language key component of Pacific identity

  • 18 Apr 2021
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Language is a key component of Pacific identity and ASB Polyfest provides a platform to hear Pacific young people express why they believe it is important to their overall wellbeing. 

The iconic Auckland Secondary Schools Māori and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival made its comeback last week following a two-year absence, due COVID-19 in 2020, and the Christchurch tragedy in 2019. 

Manukau Sports Bowl came alive on Wednesday when hosts Tainui and Pacific leaders welcomed guests in a pōwhiri, which Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon Aupito William Sio attended along with other Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) representatives. 

Having always been strong advocates for ASB Polyfest, this year MPP has become a key sponsor of the event’s speech competition component.  

The Ministry has provided $50,000 in sponsorship, specifically from the Languages Funding pool. 

It sees the speech competition as a unique opportunity to hear from the voices of our young people on why they believe language is important to their overall wellbeing.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Samoan Stage Coordinator Melegalenu'u Ah Sam says the idea of running a speech competition was initiated well over a decade ago and had been going strong since.

She says teachers of the Samoan language were looking at it and thinking of how they could use language in the festival, in other ways besides singing and dancing.

“We decided to give it a go," she says.

"It's all about language. Dancing and singing [are] not complete without the language itself so we need to try and improve the oral communication these kids have."

Speeches took place on the Samoa, Tonga and Niue stages, with the Cook Islands Pacific Speech Competition set to take place on August 5, as part of  Cook Islands Language Week. ​

Themes selected for students to focus on align to Identity, Language and Culture and this year's theme of “Healing the body, mind, spirit and soul with the strength of Culture”.

There were exceptional performances across the board, with many students choosing to speak about the importance of speaking Pacific languages in Aotearoa.

Visit the ASB Polyfest website for results as they become available.