By Mick Jensen
Minister of Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, stopped off at Ashburton College last week for a chat with Pasifika students, their families and teachers.
Minister Sio, whose role is to advocate for diversity and the needs of Pacific peoples, was making his first visit to Ashburton and was keen to build relationships and raise awareness of his Ministry.
He came to New Zealand as an eight-year-old when his parents migrated from Samoa to live in Otahuhu in 1969 and was welcomed in that language by Ashburton College deputy head girl Uati Saofai on Friday.
Minister Sio said the current generation of Pasifika were living all around New Zealand and they included gifted, future leaders who were “brown, beautiful, brainy and bi-lingual”.
Speaking to a sizeable gathering of students of Pacific heritage, he asked them to think about where they saw their future, how they would contribute to society and “what they stood for”.
He encouraged students to offer feedback and to share their views on “what’s going on” for young Pacific people in New Zealand.
Some 62 per cent of those who identified as Pasifika in New Zealand where born in this country, he said.
“Do you feel a strong cultural link back to your ancestral lands and do you aspire to own a house, a car and earn a big salary?,” he asked.
Students were shown a short film showing a vision of Pacific Aotearoa.
They were then asked to break up into groups to share their thoughts with Government education and cultural officials and advisers on areas raised by Aupito William Sio.
Some 7.5 per cent, or around 90 students at Ashburton College identify with Pacific heritage. Most of those hail from Samoa, Fiji or Tonga.
The college supports that Pacific culture through involvement in events like Polyfest Canterbury, the Pasifika Speech Competition and Emerging Pasifika Leaders Conference.