Palmerston North Girls' High School Year 12 student Celestial Mareni Brown has a voice to be heard.
Last year, the 16-year-old New Zealand-born Samoan stamped her mark in the music community when she claimed the Palmerston North Choral Society Trophy as part of the Manawatū-Whanganui regional Big Sing Competition 2018, for her outstanding support of her choir.
What she recently said about being a young Pacific person in regional Aotearoa at the Lalanga Fou - Tulī Takes Flight fono in Palmerston North has resonated with many, and made an impact on all those at the fono, including the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) team.
In 2012, Celestial – the eldest of three sisters - moved to Palmerston North with her family from the South Auckland suburb of Manurewa.
The talented teenager was asked to take part in the fono as a youth speaker earlier this month, by well-known Pacific figure in the Palmerston North community James Etuale, and says she is truly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to speak and be heard.
“Being a Pacific youth in Palmerston North is challenging, although very rewarding,” Celestial says.
“Compared to other regions, we have a small population of Pacific youth and opportunities are rare, therefore when opportunities are offered, we grasp and take them by force; we utilise them well.”
Celestial based her fono presentation on the Lalanga Fou goal of having Confident, Thriving and Resilient Young Pacific People, and shared her journey to illustrate how she thought this could be done, and to provide examples of youth leadership.
In Palmerston North, Pacific youth go out of their way to find opportunities and try new things, she says.
“This benefits us because we learn how to communicate, persevere, and stay organised, along with other important life skills.
“With the small Pacific youth population here, we all know each other, learn to appreciate one another, help out and work together.”
A contributing factor to the success of a Pacific youth, is having strong parental support, which most do in the community, she adds.
Engaging with regional communities and particularly Pacific youth is a crucial activity for MPP to do, as youth are the future.
“As the leaders of tomorrow, we need support and guidance from the Ministry and elders to ensure the future remains steady going.”
As a young Pacific person living in regional New Zealand, gaining confidence is the key to flourishing in their environment, Celestial continues.
“The main thing I would like to see happen to Pacific youth in the regions is – as clearly mentioned in the Lalanga Fou goal – to be confident, and not only in their cultural identity but to give Pacific youth the opportunity to lead and trust them to do a good job.”
“To thrive in all aspects of life, by utilising our resources to create solutions for ourselves and the future generations; and to inherit the resilience from our ancestors so we ensure future generations acquire this quality also.”
These are just some of the core qualities which will enable Pacific youth in New Zealand to flourish, she says.
The next Lalanga Fou - Tulī Takes Flight fono takes place in Tauranga, on August 19.