Akarere Henry consistently challenges the status quo to create positive change for Pacific peoples in the South Waikato.
Like the time she challenged the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) and Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio to visit Pacific people living in rural communities, and hear what trials they face, as well as their aspirations.
Akarere’s appeal was gladly accepted, and on November 15, MPP visited Tokoroa to facilitate the final Lalanga Fou -Tulī Takes Flight fono, co-hosted by the South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services Trust.
There, the community heard about local initiatives which assist Pacific people to become thriving, resilient, prosperous, enriched with culture and identity - all key priorities for MPP.
It was also an opportunity for MPP to share about its initiatives, and update the community one year on from the Pacific Summit and launch of the Lalanga Fou report.
Of Cook Islands descent, Akarere was born and raised in Tokoroa, where she still resides and is known for her leadership and service in the Pacific community.
As the Chief Executive of South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services Trust, Akarere oversees the organisation which offers a range of services as informed by the community to best meet their needs.
“We have grown over the years and have services contracted from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, the District Health Board and Public Health Organisations,” she explains.
Pacific people make up 25 percent of the population in the South Waikato, Akarere says.
“So outside of the three major cities, we would be the fourth largest per capita of Pacific.
“It is imperative to recognise Pacific people do not only live in the cities and as such, our rural communities have also made and make significant contributions to Pacific wellbeing.”
Acknowledgement of who Pacific people are, and where they come from and that this is valued and respected, is a cornerstone to positive engagement and relationship building, Akarere continues.
“Therefore, the Ministry’s new strategic plan is going to be important for the wellbeing of our community.”
The Tokoroa fono was well attended by a largely Cook Islands Pacific community, and it wrapped up a year of successful, insightful and valuable regional engagements by the Ministry.
The Ministry will use the information and data collected to help them inform future decision-making and policies, as they strive towards achieving the Lalanga Fou goals.