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Source: New Zealand Government

Mauri. Kia Ora tatou katoa. Warm Pacific greetings.

Can I at the outset convey my sincere condolences to the Niuean community of Aotearoa who mourn the passing of Sir Toke Talagi, Niue’s former Premier.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid tribute yesterday of Sir Toke’s significant contribution to Niue, New Zealand and the Pacific region.

Greetings and acknowledgements

My staff have asked that I should speak for no more than 5 minutes and to keep my remarks to just four points. First, I should promote the work of PEC. Then officially open PEC’s new premises. I should then make my announcement. And lastly I should launch PEC’s new online eLearning modules.

However on special occasions such as today, the Samoan in me thinks I must acknowledge our community leaders who are present. That’s at least 10 minutes. Then with all Samoan speeches, I ought to provide a preliminary story that paves the way for my four points. Then of course, I need to consider an appropriate conclusion. That’s at least a 20-30 minute speech.

All humour aside, this is such a special occasion for Pasifika Education Centre that we need to take our time and celebrate this special moment. It is appropriate that we acknowledge everyone involved in PEC’s history and story of the last 40 plus years.

Thank you to Rev Suamalie for your blessing on this occasion. It is right that you do so. Everything I’ve read in books, and have heard from the mouths of our elders about our Pacific migration story tells me that the task of our spiritual leaders in helping us through the different legs of our journey is important.

Our connection to the spiritual realm reminds us all of our place and role in the cycle of life.  This understanding keeps us grounded, and helps us to focus on our goals for the future. 

Thank you Ron Viviani, PEC Board chair. I endorse your acknowledgements of the present and past board members. I echo your comments recognizing the former Board Chair Ms Mele Wendt for her work and commitment to PEC.

I also endorse Tuiloma Gayle Lafaialii’s comments as PEC’s CEO in recognizing her team and past CEO’s and staff members. To all who were part of the 42 years of PEC’s history, thank you.

Thank you also to the team at MPP for all your hard work and effort in this work.

I acknowledge the presence of both the Samoan and Cook Islands Consul-General. Thank you for your presence today. Your presence and the presence of all our other elders today adds mana and dignity to our event.

I don’t need to promote the work and vital role that the Pasifika Education Centre has to play in promoting our Pacific languages. Your presence today is evidence of the worth of PEC to you and our community.

You are all guardians and custodians of our different Pacific languages. Thank you for your commitment and enduring dedication to this work.

From the 2018 Pacific Aotearoa Vision Summit

In 2018, at the Pacific Aotearoa Vision Summit, I recall I used the following saying to set the scene for beginning a new journey.

O le aso ma le filiga. O le aso ma le mata’igatila.

This means, that there is a day appointed for preparing every needful thing for our long journey.  There is a day appointed, to check that our double-hull canoe is safe and all our ropes tying everything together are tight and strong.

Today is such a day. This is a day appointed to us to check and re-check all our preparations, before we embark on this new leg of our journey towards the future.

A future where our Pacific languages and cultures are a vital source of strength, grounding us and giving us confidence.

It is also a future where speaking our languages provides us with an intimate sense to our identity and our story, giving us a clear sense of belonging.

At that Vision Summit, I released the Lalanga Fou report that the Ministry for Pacific Peoples had recorded what we captured from our community engagements. It included the dreams and aspirations of our Pacific peoples about the future they saw for themselves in Aotearoa, and the things they identified as valuable going forward.

I was so pleased when I saw that in addition to the goals of prosperity, having a healthy and resilient population, and the focus on helping Pacific youth achieve their fullest potential, I also saw that Pacific peoples, especially our young people, all valued our Pacific languages and cultures. They also wanted to see our Pacific languages thrive in the future.

The goal for thriving Pacific languages and cultures was accepted by Government. And so when we focussed last year on delivering a Wellbeing Budget for all New Zealanders, this also meant the Government also recognised the role that languages and cultures play in the wellbeing and success of Pacific Peoples.

$3.9 Million from the 2019 Wellbeing Budget

In the 2019 Budget we allocated an unprecedented amount of funding towards a Pacific package that would lift the skills and opportunities for Pacific peoples. This included a $20 million investment over four years for work the Ministry for Pacific Peoples would embark on that includes the establishment of a Pacific Language Unit and working in partnership with the wider Pacific communities of Aotearoa to ensure Pacific languages can thrive through future generations.

From that $20 Million I am pleased to announce today that the Ministry for Pacific Peoples has allocated $3.9 million over four years to the Pasifika Education Centre. This is a significant investment that will enable PEC to boost its content, delivery and reach of community-based Pacific languages, cultural education and training activities and programmes.

Pasifika Education Centre plays a key role

When I first became the Minister for Pacific Peoples and given delegated authority to oversee the work of PEC, I saw that PEC’s forward trajectory was uncertain.

I believed that PEC can provide practical hands-on community-based Pacific language courses to ensure Pacific people in New Zealand can learn and use their languages at home, at work and in our communities.

I believed PEC has a vital role in ensuring Pacific languages will thrive in Aotearoa New Zealand. I believed that PEC has a role to ensure that the Pacific languages that are under threat and vulnerable to being lost forever, can thrive, be celebrated and passed onto future generations.

This $3.9 Million investment will provide certainty and confidence to PEC to continue serving our Pacific-wide communities in Aotearoa.

I am also happy to announce that this investment will allow PEC to launch its online platform and eLearning modules today. These eLearning Pacific language modules will allow greater access for Pacific Aotearoa.

I envisioned when PEC completely rolls out its online platform and eLearning modules that the face-to-face courses that are held in Auckland by PEC tutors can be shared online via technology to Pacific groups in the Waikato regions in real-time.

I can see Pacific families all the way from Northland to Invercargill, or gathered at community rooms in Gisborne, or Hawkes Bay, or joining together in church halls in Whanganui, to learn their Pacific languages. I can see our young people learning our Pacific stories and building confidence in their heritage and being bilingual.

Pacific bilingualism a competitive edge

Bilingualism is one of our strengths that we often don’t appreciate or recognise its true value.

Singapore is a nation that invests significant sums of government money to keep it’s bilingual competitive edge in their community and in the market place.

Pacific bilingualism is our competitive edge. In my travels around New Zealand and in the Pacific region, I come across so many highly qualified academics, government officials, and experts who tell me they value their Pacific languages and cultures and recognise that Pacific bilingualism gives them a competitive edge in their personal life, including in their educational pursuit, in their careers, and in the modern market place.

We need to celebrate our Pacific bilingual edge and promote it.

Open new premises & launch online platform

Once again thank you to everyone who have worked hard to support the work of PEC, and to all of you for keeping the fires burning in our hearts to continue fighting the fight to value Pacific languages and cultures.

There is so much more work we can do together and I look forward to supporting it.

In the meantime it gives me great pleasure to officially open these new facilities for Pasifika Education Centre. And I am delighted to also launch PEC’s new online platform and eLearning Pacific modules. Let’s own this digital space.

Congratulations everyone.