Pacific Language Weeks in Aotearoa

Talofa lava!!

29 May – 4 June marks Samoan Language Week, the first of 7 language weeks dedicated to celebrating Pacific languages in New Zealand, which began in 2007. The Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Human Rights Commission, other government departments and various organisations work together with Pacific communities to promote these heritage languages and the importance of keeping them alive. The existence of these language weeks highlights the fact that the Pasifika population in Aotearoa is growing steadily and will play a huge role in the future of the country. As well as that, these language weeks encourage us to learn about the history of Pasifika peoples in this country.

Each language week has a theme (and an official poster, disseminated by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples), which acts as a guide for communities when planning activities and events. However, the theme is not intended to limit what people can do as exploration of any aspect of that particular Pacific culture is highly encouraged. If anything, these language weeks act as a platform upon which a deeper understanding of Pacific cultures can be achieved – whether it’s through food, song and dance or through history, art, politics and writing.

The theme for Samoan Language Week is “E felelei manu, ae ma’au i o latou ofaga: Birds migrate to environments where they survive and thrive.” For the first time since its inception, a new language week resource has been co-created by Te Papa Museum and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. In that resource, there are suggestions about what people might do to celebrate Samoan Language Week and also an explanation of the theme.

Samoan Language Week poster

Samoan Language Week poster

Here are the dates for the other 6 Pacific language weeks:

  • Cook Islands: Sunday 31 July – Saturday 6 August
  • Tonga: Sunday 4 September – Saturday 10 September
  • Tuvalu: Sunday 25 September – Saturday 1 October
  • Fiji: Monday 3 October – Sunday 9 October
  • Niue: Sunday 16 October – Saturday 22 October
  • Tokelau: Sunday 23 October – Saturday 29 October

If you’re interested in finding out more about these language weeks, a Google search should do the trick! Otherwise, contact our Pasifika Directorate for more info. In the meantime, ask your Samoan friends to teach you some basic words or phrases, listen to some Samoan sounds or watch Samoan videos on YouTube. Learning about different cultures is always a rewarding and fun experience, and these language weeks are totally the best excuse to do so.

Fa’afetai tele lava!! Ia manuia tele le Vaiaso o le Gagana Samoa.

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4th centenary of Dutch visit to Tonga

Last week, our Director Pasifika, Associate Professor Malakai Koloamatangi travelled to Tonga to partake in celebrations commemorating the 1616 visit of Jacob Le Maire and Willem Cornelisz Schouten to the kingdom. The Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to visit Tonga, in a journey which sought to circumnavigate the globe. The visit was honoured in Nuku’alofa with an exhibition, the unveiling of commemorative stamps and the presentation of a book Atlas of Cape of Hoorn from HE Mr Robert Zaagman, Ambassador of the Netherlands to HRH Crown Prince Tupouto’a.


Commemorative stamps in honour of Schouten and Le Maire’s 1616 visit

Associate Professor Koloamatangi delivered the keynote lecture on Tongan perceptions of that first contact, pointing out that the people of Niua (where Schouten and Le Maire made landfall) still retell the story of the encounter. He also highlighted, along with others present, just how important the visit was for Tonga as it opened the small kingdom up to the rest of the world and placed it for the first time on European maps.


HE Mr Robert Zaagman – Ambassador from the Netherlands, Associate Professor Malakai Koloamatangi and Hon. Fe’ao Vakata, Minister of Internal Affairs for the Kingdom of Tonga

The event also served as a way of celebrating the friendly relationship that exists between Tonga and the Netherlands.

More information about the celebrations can be found here.


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Manawatu Pasifika Graduation Celebration

Bula vinaka everyone!!

Yesterday afternoon, some of our Directorate staff travelled down to Palmerston North to partake in the celebration to honour Pasifika graduates. The venue had been changed from previous years to the Activity Centre and what a difference it made! Over 300 people were in attendance to celebrate the huge achievements of our Pasifika students. Key messages relayed by the Vice-Chancellor, the guest speaker Filimone Waqabaca – Fiji’s High Commissioner to NZ, PhD graduate Dr. Litea Meo-Sewabu, the officiating pastor for the evening and other speakers encouraged our graduates to be leaders, to be bold, to take what they have accomplished and make a difference in the world.

Many thanks to the organising team for a wonderful evening. Special thanks to the MU Pasifika Students Association, who worked tirelessly to prepare performances and what seemed like a tonne of leis for grads – well done!

Manawatu grad

A highlight of the evening – graduates and staff danced together en masse! Our Vice Chancellor has quite the moves!

It’s Wellington’s turn next on the 27th, looking forward to continuing what has been a great graduation season already.

Congratulations to all our Manawatu graduates. Have a great weekend everyone – vinaka vakalevu.

Fine Koloamatangi – Research Assistant  (on behalf of the Director Pasifika)

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Developments at the Pasifika Directorate

It’s been a while since I’ve been posted but I hope to post regularly from now on:

  • there have been staff changes with a new student advisor, Carlos Tupu; a new research assistant, Fine Koloamatangi; and a new Executive Assistant, Catherine Haslem;
  • we  are missing Fuimaono Ben Taufua, our National Project Manager (Senior Pasifika Advisor) who has been taken ill;
  • the highlight so far for the year has been our Albany celebration to honour Pasifika graduates. It was a great night, with great achievements and company. Look forward Manawatu and Wellington taking their turns;
  • the Pacific Futures symposium, run jointly with the Pacific Research and Policy Centre and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was great with presentations on natural resource security in the Pacific;
  • I continue with my weekly radio programme on PlanetFM in the vernacular, as well as regular comments on Radio New Zealand International on Pacific politics;
  • On the research front: I am looking forward to doing some work with high school teachers and senior students in Tonga on civic education based largely on a book I wrote on the topic titled: Fakahalafononga ki he Temokalati (Pathway to Democracy); I am writing several pieces for various publications including a book on kava, a Foreword for a work on Tongan tradition, a new Journal of Pacific Research and Policy, and a series on the idea of ‘grafting’ and ‘crafting’ in academic research

Until next time…

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First post for 2015

This is the first instalment for 2015. A lot has happened since the beginning of the year – it promises to be another busy year, no doubt building on the 2014 foundation.

Recent highlights and what to look forward to:

  • I was invited to the reception for the new US Ambassador HE Mark Gilbert. A good relationship exists with the American Embassy in Wellington and the US Consulate in Auckland. I look forward to working with the new Ambassador;
  • There is an exciting project that is being carried out in collaboration between the Pasifika Directorate and the Pacific Exporters’ Network, to look at the possibility of encouraging Pacific Islanders to pay for goods (groceries and so forth) in New Zealand whilst their families and relatives pick them up in the Islands. An important partner is NZ Post which will make available its resources to support the initiative;
  • A workshop on disaster risk management run jointly by the Joint Centre for Disaster Research and the Pacific Research and Policy Centre was held in Wellington in March saw representatives from five Pacific Islands come together to be helped and supported in putting together disaster management plans for their respective countries. Interestingly, representatives from Vanuatu participated in the exercise and I am sure they were able to put into practice what they learned during the aftermath of Cyclone Pam;
  • Pasifika staff at Massey held its first annual planning and leadership day in March. One of the highlights was when the Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey shared with us his vision for Pasifika/Pacific in New Zealand and the region: this is the time for Pasifika staff to lead Massey to become ‘more Pacific’ by making the university understand Pacific/Pasifika;
  • The Office of the AVC Maori and Pasifika is developing a new Cultural Audit Model as a mechanism to ensure colleges and units work together with the Office to achieve measurable outcomes for Maori and Pasifika;
  • The Pasifika Directorate in conjunction with the Pacific Research and Policy Centre is developing a set of research guidelines for Massey researchers to use when researching the Pacific/Pasifika. One of the objectives is to make research culturally appropriate and ethically responsible. The aim is to have a draft ready by the third quarter of this year;
  • The Pacific Research and Policy Centre was launched publicly at Parliament House in Wellington on Monday 30 March. It was attended by over a 100 guests including parliamentarians, diplomatic corps, university leaders, academics, government ministries as well as Pasifika communities. The main message that came from the speeches and presentations was that Pasifika/Pacific research needed to benefit Pasifika/Pacific communities;
  • I was invited to take part in a review of a new Masters in Pacific and Indigenous Development degree at AUT. It looks to be a wonderful offering and it could form one of the bases perhaps of a similar degree at Massey;
  • The Auckland Secondary Schools’ Polyfest was a resounding success for Massey where we sponsored the Tongan stage. We had over 200 prospective students fill out enquiry forms as well as countless others who visited the Massey tent to discuss their future tertiary options;
  • Our main highlight for April is the Albany graduation and Pasifika graduation celebration where Moses Faleolo and Sione Vaka will graduate with PhDs. The guest speaker will be Jenny Salesa MP.
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Highlights for the week beginning 8 September:


  • The Small Islands Developing States conference in Samoa 1-4 September was great. It was great to see the partnerships being formed around sustainable development for the SIDS. It was also great to hold this major international conference in our neck of the woods and Samoa did us all proud with the great organisation, warm Pacific hospitality and friendliness, and a clean, green environment which set the stage for a memorable event. Massey University represented by the Pacific Research and Policy Centre and the Joint Centre for Disaster Research held a successful event on the need for indigenous knowledge and indigenous approaches in disaster risk reduction;
  • The consignment of educational material for the Ha’apai relief effort will be flown by Air New Zealand to Tonga on Saturday. From there it will be transported by ferry to Ha’apai. The National Emergency Management Office is coordinating the goods once they land in Tonga. There has been intimation from the Office that it would like Massey University to be the main channel for coordinating the collection and dispatch of educational material and assistance to Tonga after any future natural disasters. If this is formalised between the government and Massey, it could form a useful template for working with other Pacific governments in the aftermath of disasters;
  • A useful meeting with the North Shore Pasefika Forum regarding the 29 November North Shore Pasefika Festival. Organising the Festival is in the capable hands of Sonny and Weaver Vagana. The Festival has been important event for all Shore communities not just Pasifika. Massey will support the Festival as it has done in the past;
  • An initial discussion has been had with the Tongan Methodist Church with an intention to visit or at least to communicate with the 19 branches of the Church in Auckland to share information about Massey’s programmes. A way will have to be devised to reach the other 17 or so branches of the Church that are scattered across the country;
  • My media comments this week concerned: the ACT and Internet Party leaders; the state of the general election campaign so far; SIDS conference; and the need for limited freedoms and democracy
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Week beginning 25 August

Week’s highlights:

  • It was interesting to give the welcoming speech on Monday evening at the ‘Meet the Candidates’ Tongan community meeting at the Lotofale’ia Methodist Church in Mangere. The meeting was attended by over 100+ people. They got a chance to listen to election candidates from National, Labour, the Conservatives and Internet-Mana. The sitting MP, Su’a William Sio was also present. Interestingly for Labour and National, many of the questions were related to people’s opposition to the Marriage Equality legislation and other moral issues;
  • The Small Island Developing States conference starts on Monday 1 September but most people, including the contingent from Massey, will be making their way to Samoa this week/weekend. Massey will be hosting a side event during SIDS to highlight our expertise on climate change and indigenous approaches to disaster risk management. This will be followed by a Massey-hosted workshop at the Wellington campus next year;
  • Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley and I visited BEST at their Auckland City offices on Wednesday to explore possible synergies and collaborative areas between our institutions. A subsequent future meeting will hopefully confirm the common areas of interest;
  • The Cook Islands general election result will now be decided by the courts after a petition was lodged alleging election irregularities. It is now 7 weeks since the election. I was interviewed regarding a likely result on Radio New Zealand International on Tuesday evening;
  • My columns and radio slot this week dealt with: Hone Harawira; most recent political opinion polls; election campaigns by National and Labour; Cabinet reshuffle in Tonga; sale of New Zealand farms to foreigners; Israel and Hamas
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Week beginning 11 August

Activities for the week:

  • A profitable discussion was had with Alistair Allan, Director of Facilities Management at Albany about the marae and Maori complex including the fale and Pasifika complex. Although, the will exists to complete the project there is a process to be followed including putting together a business case. We are looking at around 2020 for the facilities to take shape;
  • Looking forward to attending the Marsden Fund workshop on Friday;
  • I am continuing consultations on the Pacific think tank concentrating on colleagues at AUT and Auckland university;
  • Preparation for the Human Rights in the Pacific conference in December are well underway;
  • The process of inviting the King of Tonga to open the Human Rights conference and to launch the Inaugural Queen Salote Tupou III Lecture Series has begun by contacting the Lord Chamberlain;
  • Great to see Moses Faleolo and Sione Vaka pass their PhD oral exams with minor amendments to be made to their theses. Graduation celebrations in April 2015 at Albany is looking to be an exciting event;
  • Ben Taufua and I are attending the combined church service for North Shore Pacific communities in Glenfield this Sunday;
  • We are trialling an initiative at the Directorate which will see Pasifika students getting free cups and bowls of noodles for lunch or dinner. If there is enough interest we will look at continuing the programme but at specific intervals that help the students most, for example, during exam times. I hope to start a similar initiative at Manawatu and Wellington. The initiative has been funded by the Fofo’anga Club
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Week of August 4

My activities for the week


  • Kia orana! It is Cook Islands Language Week so learn a Cook Islands word or two;
  • It was good to catch up with Prof David Vincent from the UK’s Open University who is here to assist Massey in achieving the goals of the Road to 2025. Sharing international experience is beneficial particularly measuring up to what others are doing overseas;
  • I am in Wellington on Tuesday as part of the National Project Fund selection panel for Ako Aotearoa funded projects. It is disappointing that there is not a Pasifika learner project among this year’s applications. There is clearly a need to encourage researchers to submit research proposals for Pacific specific projects;
  • Preparation is getting underway to bring participants from the Pacific to the Human Rights in the Pacific conference in December;
  • I am meeting with Prof Brigid Heywood, AVC Research, Academic and Enterprise on Thursday to discuss Pasifika student progression and retention;
  • Our new research assistant Shoma Prasad joined us this week, marked by an afternoon tea to welcome her. Shoma will act as a research assistant to me and a strategic and data analyst for Prof Shaista Shameem;
  • My media comments and newspaper column this week focus on: Winston Peters, Tuvalu family gaining NZ residency, Forum meeting in Palau (PlanetFM); new secretary-general for the Forum, re-admittance of Fiji to the Forum (Pacific Radio Network); deconstructing democracy (Tonga Weekly)
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Week of 21 July

What I am doing this week:

  • It is annual plans and budget 2015 time of the year. It is interesting to consider new and old initiatives and how we are trying to implement the ‘Growing Pearls of Wisdom’ Pasifika strategy in light of tight fiscal environment we live in;
  • As I sit on the Selection Panel for Ako Aotearoa’s National Project Fund, I will give some time this week to assessing which project/s ought to get funding in this round. One of the unfortunate results of this year’s round is that there are no Pasifika learner-focus applications;
  • I am meeting with Prof Mike Watts of Auckland Institute of Studies over the possibility of staircasing IT students to Massey to do postgraduate study;
  • I am attending an Auckland Council presentation by Associate Professor Robin Peace and Dr Trudie Cain – “Understanding ethnic diversity in Auckland” on Thursday;
  • I am looking forward to Prof Paul Moon’s Sir Paul Reeves Memorial Lecture on Tuesday. I am interested because I am hoping it will give me some ideas about the Annual Pasifika Lecture series;
  • I am talking about: Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei; the possible stoush between Winston Peters and Colin Craig over East Coast Bays; the disputed results of the Cook Islands general election; the looming visit of Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama to NZ and Australia; the political implications of the downing of flight MH17; and tradition vs democracy, in my weekly columns and radio slot

Some good news:

  • Enquiries are picking up from people who want to study at Massey and some have enrolled already in our Bachelor of Construction degree. I think this is an indication that our media (radio and print) campaign is reaching our communities

Ideas and suggestions welcome:

  • I am giving some thought to getting an advisory group together made up possibly of community people to offer advice and thoughts on strategic issues. If you have any thoughts please feel free to send them to me
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