FIJIANS COME TOGETHER FOR A BETTER FUTURE
A journey which began 15 months ago, aimed at improving the wellbeing of Aotearoa’s Fijian community has come to fruition.
Hon Carmel Sepuloni with Lalawa group at National Fijian Wellbeing Plan Launch 2022
The National Fijian Wellbeing plan - Lalawa Ni Tiko Vinaka was launched in Auckland on September 17 by the Minister for Social Development & Employment, ACC, and Arts, Culture & Heritage, Hon Carmel Sepuloni at a cultural ceremony conducted by Fijians from around the country.
Community groups from Northland to Oamaru took part in the process, which began in June 2021, the plan is part of a suite of ethnic Pacific Wellbeing Strategic plans supported and guided by Pasefika Proud.
Minister Sepuloni praised the amount of work done by various Fijian communities that went into making the plan - Lalawa Ni Tiko Vinaka - possible.
But she said while acknowledging the role played by the Fijian community there was still “much work to do” for families.
“Our expectation is that every family should have a warm, secure place which they can call home, that all of our communities should experience good health and have access to the healthcare that they need,” she said.
“All of our communities should have access to the educational opportunities that they need to be able to get ahead. Those are a few of the priorities that I really wanted to acknowledge upfront.”
She promised the Government shared similar priorities and aspirations for, and with, the Fijian community as evidenced in the Lalawa.
“Na cakacaka vata e rawa kina na veika e sega ni dau rawa se namaki me yaco”
Teamwork makes possible what can’t be or is not expected to be achieved
“When we talk about wellbeing there is no wellbeing for our Pasifika community, for you as a Fijian community without our arts, our culture and our heritage. So sometimes when people point out that these are two very different portfolios, I have to remind them of the connection between those portfolios, and why that connection is incredibly important.”
The Minister then encouraged the children present to join her in cutting the cake - acknowledging the importance of children who are a priority for the Fijian community.
“If the Fijian community is going to thrive here in Aotearoa, then our focus has to be on ensuring that our children have everything they need to realise their potential. And we know that if they realise their potential, then we are all looked after.”
Fijian Wellbeing Project leader, Saimoni (Sai) Lealea MNZM thanked the Ministry for Social Development and Pasefika Proud for working with Fijians through this journey and for the MSD funding, and for believing the Fijian community could pull together their own wellbeing plans to help inform the government on how to better work with, and for, Fijians in Aotearoa.
“It hasn’t been easy, of course Covid intervened now and again, so some of the talanoa had to be done online, but we persisted.”
His sentiments were echoed around the gathering.
Kasanita Bilitaki (Auckland) worked with Sianiti Nakabea (Hamilton) to write the plan with the input of all sixteen working groups.
“It’s been a long time coming, it’s a breakthrough and it’s a new venture. We’re building the foundation of the bure (house) ... it gives the future generations the ability to continue with the work that we’ve already started,” Kasanita said.
Sianiti agreed, and said it was great to have a plan that recognised community interests - “we’re proud to be the ones that wrote it”.
Epeli Bogitini (Canterbury) felt “truly blessed” to have been involved, and believed it was now down to the communities to implement the Lalawa in such a way for it to be as beneficial as possible.
The implementation was a big discussion point for many present. Liliana Tukuca (Northland) said the next step would be the appointment of a Trust from the working groups to oversee the plan’s implementation. It was expected that about seven or eight people would fill the Trust positions to ensure all Fijian communities in the country would get the benefit of the Lalawa.
For Samisoni Tikoinasau (Waikato) the highlight was that the Fijian community was being recognised, and empowered, by the Government.
“(They are) resourcing us and funding us – it’s on us now to do the implementing,” Samisoni said.
Youth working group member Alysha Rau (Wellington) said the plan was “a stepping stone” to getting young people involved and contributing in their communities.
The strategic priorities for Pasefika Proud around achieving wellbeing for our Pacific communities are articulated in the Pasefika Proud Pathways for Change Framework launched in 2019.
The Fijian National Wellbeing Plan is one of National Wellbeing Plans for ethnic specific nations being developed around the country as part of the Pasefika Proud work programme. Each project group developing their wellbeing plan is encouraged to utilise and expand on their Nga Vaka o Kainga Tapu conceptual framework which is a wellbeing framework for different Pacific groups in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
A Fijian Conceptual Framework to assist with the development of a training programme for Fijian practitioners and service providers working with victims, perpetrators, and families from our communities who have been affected by family violence.