The Safer Waitaki, Waitaki District Council Famili Fiefia event in Oamaru is not only about stopping family harm in the region, but it is about Pacific people rallying to provide Pacific solutions to challenges they face.
Last year, a group of women, passionate about creating positive impact on their community met with Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio at the Tuli Takes Flight – Lalanga Fou Fono in Oamaru.
Oranga Tamariki Youth Justice Social Worker and President Tongan Society South Canterbury Inc Siesina (Sina) Latu; Coordinator for Safer Waitaki and Community Development Coordinator for Waitaki District Council Helen Algar (QSM); and Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group Inc’s Hana Halalele have since joined forces to organise an event to combat family harm, a huge issue in the Waitaki region, Sina says.
“Family harm is a big issue our Pasifika families are facing and there is a real need to raise awareness and also need of programmes, workshops and services to help our kainga who are experiencing family harm,” she says.
Waitaki is a fast-growing Pacific community, with the largest ethnic group hailing from Tonga, followed by Tuvaluan, Fijian, Samoan, Tokelauan, Cook Islands, with ethnic specific community groups and churches.
A working group was formed to organise the Famili Fiefia, featuring representatives from each ethnic group, and youth as they make up a large majority of the Pacific population in Waitaki and are leaders of the future, Sina says.
“Hopefully this generation will break the cycle of family harm and the more they are involved in things, it helps to build their confidence, knowledge, wisdom and leadership skills.”
Event organiser Hana says Safer Waitaki has called on church, community and youth leaders from around the region to attend and support the Famili Fiefia.
“We use a model to ensure we collaborate and work in partnership with key groups in the Waitaki community and co-design projects with the community.
“This will help our Pasifika community build connection with important messaging to support positive safe families,” Hana says.
As the Community Development Coordinator for Waitaki District Council, Helen coordinates the Safer Waitaki Project and has been integral in the planning of the Famili Fiefia.
“Our Safer Waitaki Goals are about building strong, safe and resilient communities, and key priority areas are increasing pathways and opportunities to support people/family/whanau to flourish in our community and to promote healthy respectful relationships,” Helen explains.
“We have supported and facilitated events for various sectors of our community but had not yet done so for Pasifika - I saw an opportunity to enable a collaborative approach to addressing family harm that was inclusive and relevant to Pacific people.”
In her role, Helen has previously coordinated community responses to family harm but there has never been an event specifically designed by the Pacific community, for the Pacific community.
She says working together with Hana, Sina and the combined Pacific communities has been fantastic.
“It has given life to the dream and it has been possible through the support of Waitaki District Council, Safer Waitaki and enabled with funding from Oranga Tamariki.
“This event is not a one off but rather one component in a suite of activities we hope to deliver over the coming years if funding allows.”
Organisers hope the community will reap many benefits from this event including building capacity and capability within the local community to identify and address family harm; and modelling healthy relationships and providing tools to help people maintain these.
Developing an inclusive way of working and demonstrating hard topics such as family harm, can be approached in a way that is engaging and supportive and relevant to specific ethnic communities, Helen continues.
“We want people to have fun and come together as a combined collaborative community to support our families and young people.”