There are many things Louisa Vaeluaga is passionate about – but most of all, it is her Pacific identity, culture, traditions and values.
Thanks to her passion for her Pacific culture, the 22-year-old New Zealand-born Tokelauan/Tuvaluan from Auckland has been presented with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) Language, Culture and Identity Award, at the 2019 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards.
This award recognises a young person who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities by leading a project in their community, church or school or has acted in a way that has inspired others through their language and culture to make a positive change in their own life or the lives of others.
As the winner of this category, Louisa will receive a paid internship at MPP, worth $10,000.
Louisa intends to make the most of this internship, by learning how MPP functions as a government agency; and also where to advocate for Pacific people’s voices to be heard, she says.
“A seat at the table is what I’ve aimed for… it is imperative all Pacific voices are heard.”
In 2014, she was Deputy Head Girl of Sacred Heart College in Napier and was awarded Dux, as well as a scholarship to attend University.
Louisa recently graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Commerce double majoring in Commercial Law and Marketing.
Within the Tuvaluan community she represents Nukulaelae in the unumua, a leading girls dance group renowned for their grace in movement.
Within the Pacific community she has been involved in Pasifika Festival; has worked closely with Tuvaluan Community Trust volunteering for Power Up; and has performed in many events representing Tuvalu, including this year’s Pacific Dance Festival.
She represented both Tuvalu and Tokelau at this year’s KiMua New Zealand Climate Futures workshop held by McGuinness Institute.
There she was able to present her ideas of climate change concerns and solutions to the Governor General of Aotearoa Rt Hon. Dame Patsy Reddy, the Minister of Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio as well as with Tuvalu High Commissioner HE Paulson Panapa.
Louisa says she has plans to encourage other people to apply for these awards, and others like it, to inspire people to achieve and pave their way to success.
“Learning more about who I am and celebrating it has afforded me this and by sharing my story, I hope it will ignite a spark within others to do the same and more.
“Our youth in particular are vulnerable to other social disadvantages of our era…having this type of award within reach of an everyday Kiwi like me reiterates the importance of resilience in order to be able to thrive – the resilience not only of the individual, but also of family, community and country.”