Gisborne, with its mild climate, beaches and rich agriculture has become a home away from home for many Pacific migrants.
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) recently visited the Central region centre and hosted a Lalanga Fou - Tulī Takes Flight fono, aiming to engage with the Pacific communities in the area, hear their concerns and aspirations, and share what has been done since the launch of the new Pacific Vision and Lalanga Fou report last year.
Nearly 200 members of the community attended the fono, led by the Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio and his Ministry.
The fono events which are being staged across the country, are an opportunity to showcase community groups who are serving Pacific peoples in their respective areas, and the Gisborne event saw presentations by Tamuera Aberahama from the New Zealand Police; and Chairperson of the Pacific Islanders’ Community Trust (PICT) Mona Ferris.
Originally from Fiji, Mona juggles the volunteer Chair role along with her job as Deputy Principal at Ilminster Intermediate School, as well as being a wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, and more recently grandmother of four beautiful grandsons.
The Trust has been an integral part of the Gisborne Pacific community promoting prosperous, resilient, educated and healthy Pacific people since it was founded, Mona says.
It became an established charitable trust in 1989 but two years before that, the vision of Reverend Kora Tuaiti and his wife Upokoina who came to Gisborne as Pastor for the Maori Presbyterian Church led to funding of programmes to develop literacy taught through woodwork, sewing, carpentry and bookmaking initially.
“Many Pacific adults started their education in New Zealand through these access schemes, some going on to be successful in careers such as social work, psychology, teaching and nursing to name a few,” Mona says.
“We need to remember people like Theodosia NiaNia - founding and honorary member of PICT who is still active within the Board and community and who this month celebrates her 80th birthday, committing at least half of those years to our Pacific and wider community of Tairawhiti.”
In 2014 to strengthen its capability, PICT became a member of Aere Tai Collective and it has benefitted from being a Whanau Ora Navigator, and being supported in a range of programmes, in particular that related to governance for the four smaller regional providers.
The Trust has also received support for programmes directly impacting the elderly; increasing fitness of Pacific peoples; and Mathematics support for students.
Since 2011, PICT has also had a Ministry of Social Development (MSD) contract for combatting family violence, with a component in advocacy, and through Aere Tai, it delivers Whanau Ora Services.
For the first time this year, the staff and board are also involved in delivering PowerUP Flexi Plus, a valuable initiative with huge potential focused on parents and empowering them to champion their children’s education.
Many Pacific peoples left their homes for the promise of prosperity and a better life in New Zealand and while this was the dream, Mona says it has not always been the reality.
However, Gisborne offers a great lifestyle for Pacific peoples and in recent years, there has been a steady stream of Tongan migrants, and Fijians are increasing in the area too, with a number on work permits doing jobs which cannot be filled or do not attract local members of the community, she adds.
Pacific peoples have a strong sense of identity, and have everything they need to be successful and thrive in Aotearoa, Mona says.
“However, perhaps we just need to work together a bit more because our strength - not just as Tongans, Fijians, Samoans, Cook Islanders or Tokelauans but our strength as a community of Pacific peoples, will be a force to be reckoned with if we work together on some of the bigger issues.”
“We must take a greater interest in our children’s learning; we must make health a high priority and move away from the ease of fast food; we must retain our faith but need to consider the impact that donations make on our families; we must learn to be more independent of our children; and we must see ourselves as equal in all areas.
“Finally, each and every one of us must believe we can succeed and lead a long, successful life, while remembering what it is actually like to still have an island to call home.”
The Trust’s vision aligns with MPP’s Pacific Vision, and it is determined to continue creating positive change and impact in the Gisborne community.
As part of MPP’s Central region tour, another fono was staged in Hastings on June 29.
Lalanga Fou - Tulī Takes Flight heads north to Whanganui and Whangarei in July.