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Source: New Zealand Government

The value of a Pacific cultural heritage lens in public policy


Kia orana tatou katoatoa; Malo e lelei, Fakalofa lahi atu, Talofa, Malo ni, Talofa ni, Mauri, Ni sa bula vinaka, Noia, Warm Pacific greetings to you all, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Can I begin by acknowledging you and each of you this morning, and in particular, your families, and friends of the 2020/21 Tupu Tai cohort.

Fa’afetai to all the government departments and their representatives here today, for supporting our Pacific young people on what is ultimately a journey towards a more diverse and skilled workforce.

Fa’afetai also to the interns for stepping up and putting yourself forward, and for the journey that you’ve been on over the past 11 weeks; exploring and getting insight into the machinery of the public service, building your confidence in yourself and the workplace, and learning how to navigate settings and situations, and ultimately, sharing your diversity and cultural capital, your uniqueness to help make Aotearoa New Zealand a better place for our communities to live, work, thrive and prosper.

Importance of Tupu Tai

The opportunity you’ve been given matters. Not only for your own journey but for the journey that lies ahead for Aotearoa New Zealand – the growing Pacific population means that the success of our country, will soon be reliant on the success of our Pacific peoples.

Tupu Tai has, and continues, to be a platform and space that helps to facilitate the pipeline of getting more Pacific peoples into the public service, and it underpins a shared commitment to improving Pacific economic outcomes.

Increasing Pacific peoples in policy roles

This is achieved not only through ensuring our Government is supporting Pacific peoples into higher studies, but it is achieved through the support of Government and Public Sector agencies being committed to building a more diverse public service that includes more and greater opportunities for Pacific peoples.

Currently Pacific peoples make up only 3 per cent of the policy roles in government and the public service. To increase this, requires collaboration and commitment from everyone at every level of the public sector and government, as well as an understanding of what we bring to the table, and how critical this is to ensuring policy serves the diverse needs, abilities, hopes, dreams and aspirations of our Pacific community.

I hope that in the last 11 weeks, you’ve been able to get a greater sense of confidence about your worth as a Pacific person, and the value of your cultural heritage, to public policy.

I and Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, use our cultural knowledge, our stories, principles and values to guide the work we do as Government Ministers.

The Maori principles of aroha, kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, are principles that are included in our legislation and we use them today to guide our wellbeing approach. They equate to alofa/compassion, the recognition of the intrinsic mana that we are born with, our inalienable rights as free peoples, and our strength as a collective of aiga/whanau/kainga, as opposed to individuals. These cultural values provide us with a powerful world view that is uniquely ours in Aotearoa.

Minister Mahuta and I, including the Prime Minister and our Government colleagues are using the unique cultural values of Aotearoa to guide and direct public policy whilst we are in Government.

I invite you to also do the same. Use your cultural heritage as a lens for policy development.

The role of MPP in supporting Pacific prosperity

Certainly for me, across my ministerial portfolios, but namely as Minister for Pacific Peoples, I’m aware of the challenges that confront us, but also the opportunities that lie ahead.

Our story as Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand continues to evolve; over 60 per cent of our Pacific population are New Zealand born. We are now settled and growing throughout regional New Zealand. There are many Pacific with bicultural parentage who whakapapa to Maori.

Those who have heard me speak before will be familiar with a phrase I proudly champion when referencing our Pacific population in Aotearoa.

I refer affectionately to the generation that is before us as Generation 6 Bs – they’re Brown, Beautiful, Brainy, Bilingual, Bicultural and Bold.

I only need to look around the room at our interns to know that this generation have an invested interest and an unwavering passion for ensuring our Pacific peoples are successful and thriving.

We have to lead and drive the narrative in Aotearoa on who we are, our strengths, our resilience and resolve, and our aspirations for ourselves, our families, our communities and Aotearoa.

To help ensure this, my Ministry will continue to engage with Pacific peoples to strengthen the already formidable picture that we have on where Pacific peoples in Aotearoa have come from or moved from, what they’re doing now, and where they want to be in the future.

Together, and, with using our Pacific values as our anchor – our engagement with the Pacific community will help to lay the foundations to see where a Government agency can most benefit Pacific peoples in Aotearoa.

Over this next Parliamentary term, our government and my ministry will continue striving to solidify Pacific peoples footprints in Aotearoa by providing the tools and means for Pacific peoples to be confident, thriving, resilient and prosperous.

To achieve this goal, I have set a course of consolidating focus, energy and resources in delivering the Pacific Wellbeing approach across a number of Government agencies;

We started this journey with Budget 2018 by building strong foundations and growing pillars that will accelerate transformational change for Pacific peoples over time.

In 2018, the Minister of Finance and I released Treasury’s New Zealand/Pacific Economy report that showed Pacific peoples contribute $8 Billion to New Zealand’s GDP; that Pacific peoples volunteer 27,000 unpaid hours per week; and we hold an asset base of $8.3 Billion.  This Report will help us measure the effectiveness and impact of future Government policy.

But the Pacific Wellbeing approach requires Pacific peoples to lead. To lead the design and implementation of policy. To become the authors of our own solution. For we ought to be the custodians of our own legacy.

Key priorities

I am using the Pacific Aotearoa Lalanga Fou goals to prioritise our work over the next term, with an eye towards the future.

The Goal for Pacific languages and cultures is really about wanting to see your Generation being confident and thriving in our languages and culture, where bilingualism/multilingualism is valued and sought after as a competitive edge. You yourself identified this goal during the engagement process. You wanted to learn of our history, our unique stories. You wanted to see role models that look like you, sound like you, and perhaps have long names like your parents.

Languages Goal

Thriving Pacific languages, cultures and identities are part of the fabric of who we are as a nation. They magnify the value of a community, providing a vital link between our place in Aotearoa New Zealand and our heritage as peoples of the vast blue Pacific continent.

Never has there been a time where the Government, the Ministry and our Pacific community have been more united and more aligned around the Goal for Thriving Pacific languages and cultures. We want Pacific languages, cultures, and identities to be celebrated, valued and supported in Aotearoa as they are vital to Pacific peoples’ sense of wellbeing and provide the basis for Pacific communities to thrive in Aotearoa.

COVID-19 has forever transformed the way we think and do things. Our experience during these extraordinary times, while challenging, has provided an opportunity to learn, reflect and refocus our priorities within our work programme and has re-affirmed the importance and value of Pacific languages, particularly on a national platform, and in keeping our people well informed and safe.

My Ministry is focused on delivering a range of activities to ensure the aspirations of our Pacific communities and families for their languages, cultures and identities are realised.

To ensure this happens, MPP are currently working on fully establishing the Languages Unit; advancing the Community Languages and Provider Languages and Provider Funds; advancing the Pacific Aotearoa All-of-Government Languages Framework and Strategy; advancing a regional Pacific Languages Framework; and researching the impact COVID-19 has had on Pacific churches and the role of languages as part of the communications strategy.

We are also investigating the role of churches in language revitalisation; looking to deliver a refreshed Pacific Language Weeks series in 2021; and advancing the Languages Research Agenda such as a comprehensive literature review, establishment of a languages baseline indicators and measures and feasibility studies on best practice immersion-type language learning programmes, future planning and development.

I have also asked the Ministry of Education to prioritise supporting Pacific language bilingual education and the existing Pacific immersion units throughout the education sector;

If the wealthy nations of Europe or the high-growth economies of the Asian Tigers like Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan all use language and culture as a competitive edge, why are we not doing it?

Economic Prosperity

The second goal, is where I want to see you and your peers thrive and prosper by owning assets like your own homes, and other income generating assets where you are working for yourself and collaborating with others;

MPP has a number of initiatives that our Government has invested in under the Economic Prosperity Goal.

We have rolled-out the expansion and implementation of TUPU Aotearoa from Northland to Southland, from Whanganui to the Hawkes Bay region.

This is a collaborative initiative of my Ministry, Service Providers, and the Pacific communities, where we work together for the common goal of supporting and assisting Pacific people to find employment, complete further training or studies.

TOLOA is an initiative where we aim to encourage more Pacific people into STEM-related studies and occupations. We are under underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for a long time and we are working hard to change this scenario.

Opportunities and jobs in STEM fields will be the future for Pacific Aotearoa – and we will provide Tertiary Scholarships to New Zealand-based Pacific students who intend to study STEM-related subjects at a tertiary level and will continue to offer more scholarships going forward.

In addition, we’ve set up the Toloa Community Fund to support organisations and community groups to promote and deliver STEM activities to Pacific young people, through engaging key Pacific influential groups including parents, families and community leaders.

In the next three years, I’ve asked MPP to work collaboratively with Kainga Ora and our Pacific communities to find ways to accelerate Pacific home ownership. As challenging as home ownership might be, we must pursue it anyway. Home ownership gives confidence and stability to families, communities and to start addressing many of our primary health issues too.

In the third goal, I want to see our communities being healthy and wealthy, where we are looking after ourselves better, living longer, & being well informed about our own health needs.

I will be working with the MoH to roll out our Ola Manuia: Pacific Health Strategy. I will focus on establishing a strong workforce development pipeline, as well as working to address primary healthcare challenges. This will require good, strong partnerships with our Govt agencies, Pacific providers, our community at large, and rolling out services to regional New Zealand where Pacific populations are setting and growing.

Our focus for the next year is to secure a safe and effective COVID-19 Vaccine not only for New Zealand, but also for our whanauga in the Pacific region. We will be working hard across a number of agencies to engage with our Pacific communities and leadership to ensure everyone is confident in receiving the vaccine.

And our final goal is where I want to see the rising youthful Pacific population shape the future of New Zealand, where you are the creators, innovators, navigators and confident leaders of the digital economy.


To conclude, I once again commend all of the interns on making it through the programme – though, this is not the end.

We have our fair share of challenges ahead; protecting our languages, improving the pathways to employment and business, and tackling the impacts of COVID-19. You all have a part to play in providing the solutions to these challenges.

I want to leave you with some final worlds. My elders often say:

“E tele laau o le vao, ae e le aoga uma
There are many trees in the forest, but not all trees will fully realize it’s true worth.
Some trees will be used for firewood;
Some trees will be used to make spoons and bowls, or drums;
Some trees will be used for weapons, or canoes;
And the most special of trees are reserved for the pillars that hold up the fale”.

How do we realise our true worth? Know yourself first. Find your voice. Be confident in your own beliefs and values. I believe that knowing your family history will give you confidence as you search for new horizons.

Stay safe. Kia kaha, and I look forward to crossing paths with you again soon.