Tonga Language Champion Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau (pictured) is the first Pacific woman to graduate with a PhD from the University of Auckland.
For the first time, the Pale Fakalāngilangi ‘oe ‘Unuaki Fonua 2021 (Language Champion Honours) have been awarded to recipients at the conclusion of Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga - Tonga Language Week 2021.
We have seen an evolution of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ Pacific Language Weeks series this year, with several changes taking place, including the introduction of the inaugural Language Champion Honours.
From the voice of our Pacific peoples, the need to recognise people who contribute to, and are committed to nurturing their Pacific language, culture, and heritage has been determined.
The Language Champion Honours recognise community leaders from all walks of life – and it does not go unnoticed those who volunteer their time over and above their daily lives to serve their community.
Tonga Language Week was the fifth of nine Pacific Language Weeks to be staged in 2021, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, was shifted to an online platform.
This year, four Pale Fakalāngilangi ‘oe ‘Unuaki Fonua have been selected, including Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau from Auckland.
Melenaite’s individual contribution towards the maintenance and revitalisation of lea faka-Tonga is considerable.
She is a Senior Lecturer and Centre for Pacific Studies Tongan linguist at the University of Auckland and is the first Pasifika woman to graduate with a PhD from the same university.
Another recipient is the Komiti Ngaaue ‘a e Ta’u and Uike ‘o e lea faka-Tonga ‘i Aotearoa (Language Year and Week Committee), who were presented with the honour for their contribution and work towards the maintenance of lea faka-Tonga and Tonga Language Week.
The Tongan Language Year and Week Committee, with Chair Dr Linita Manu’atu at the helm (since 2012), has led the strategic approach of year-long language learning and sustainability of lea faka-Tonga.
Sefita Hao’uli from Auckland has been named a Language Champion, for his innovated ways of contributing to revitalising and maintaining lea faka-Tonga.
Sefita is a pioneer who ushered in an era when New Zealand listeners and viewers became much more familiar with Pacific voices, faces and issues.
He has been instrumental in putting out a Tongan language newspaper and then eventually starting up the first Pacific Island radio station, 531pi.
Kolovula Murphy (QSM) is the final Tonga Language Champion for 2021, presented the award for her community service in Wellington and revitalising and maintaining lea faka-Tonga.
Kolovula has contributed to Tongan and Pacific communities through various cultural, language, church, educational and community projects, and in 2018 she was named Mother of the Year by the 'Ofa ki Tonga International Newspaper, an annual award recognising women serving the community internationally.
All four Language Champions have contributed greatly to nurturing the Tongan language and culture in Aotearoa.
Congratulations to our Tonga Language Champions for 2021.