Fono a chance to sow long-term seeds for the future

posted: 4:00 pm - 26th May 2019
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(Picture caption: Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group Inc (OPICG Inc) President Hana Halalele with Minister Aupito William Sio at the Lalanga Fou fono in Oamaru.)

Pacific voices in the Oamaru and Dunedin areas have been heard and validated at the Lalanga FouTulī Takes Flight Fono at the two centres last week. 

The fono presented opportunities for the respective Pacific communities to raise concerns, as well as hopes and dreams they share, with the Minister for Pacific Peoples Hon. Aupito William Sio and his Ministry. 

When Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group Inc (OPICG Inc) President Hana Halalele was asked if she would take part in the Oamaru fono, she jumped at the chance to discuss issues affecting Pacific in the regions and to engage with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP). 

“Many of our people have not had the opportunity to take part in a fono like this and to meet officials such as Minister Sio,” Hana says. 

“I really encourage the Pacific community to be considered in the thought process, speak up and participate in the talanoa,” she adds. 

The New Zealand-born Samoan is entrenched in the Pacific community spanning the Waitaki District. 

Along with her OPICG duties, she is also Coordinator for Talanga ‘a Waitaki. 

Talanga ‘a Waitaki was formed under the Oamaru Pacific Island Network to support local Pacific teachers to organise a workshop for Pacific parents to discuss their children’s education. 

These parents felt they needed better support so they could be stronger champions for their children at school. 

Hana and a group of passionate Pacific parents formed a steering committee and helped set up a new Pasifika PowerUP Plus PowerStation for their local community in Oamaru.  There are now 20 PowerUp stations in the country.

During the fono, she presented on behalf of both OPICG and Talanga ‘a Waitaki about initiatives PowerUp Flexi Plus and Reading Together 2019.  

Hana says it was an amazing opportunity for Oamaru to be chosen as the location for the Lalanga Fou fono; to work alongside in partnership with other community groups and agencies; and engage in the dialogue.  

“It allows for community action, community building and social planning to take place while helping to facilitate the power-distance relationships so our community feel empowered to speak up and to have our Pacific voices validated on important issues that affect our Pacific community.” 

Over the years, OPICG has delivered health expos and run weekly exercise classes; facilitated a homework support centre; provided Pacific culture, arts and heritage learning opportunities while showcasing Pacific identity; provided welfare for Pacific families and supported local community initiatives. 

Following the talanoa at the fono, Hana adds she would like to see more collaboration, support, networking, partnerships, active discussions and follow-up on issues raised. 

“There are direct links with MPP’s strategic vision and goals (outlined in the Lalanga Fou report), so we will see how MPP can support us – potentially in discussions, planning how goals can be delivered at a local level and how the community can build our capacity to deliver services.” 

With an increasing Pacific population, Hana says Oamaru is an awesome place to live and raise children however, there is still work to be undertaken around developing a cultural, social and economic infrastructure to help support our people.  

“What we do now, needs to be long-term seed sowing work – and it should positively benefit our people and community in seven generations time.” 

Other groups taking part in the fono included Fale Pasifika o Aoraki Trust at Oamaru; and Presbyterian Support Otago and Pacific Trust Otago at Dunedin’s event. 

Check out Pacific Aotearoa’s Facebook and Instagram for more coverage of the fono.