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Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Pacific Reach Seminar

Pacific Reach Seminar speech

Opening address at the inaugural Pacific Reach Seminar - a full day seminar held in Wellington for people to learn how to communicate effectively with Pacific communities in ways they might not have seen before.

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The Pacific Ocean binds us all together. The name of the Ocean is 'Te Moana Nui a Kiwa' and she reminds us that we are all of the Pacific - and that New Zealand is a Pacific nation.

Pasifika populations in New Zealand are steadily growing. New Zealand's success depends on all its peoples having the opportunity to fulfil their potential. And being able to fulfil our potential is central to the New Zealand dream and to the vision that Pasifika people have for their children when they migrate to New Zealand.

I grew up in New Zealand as part of the classic immigrants' story - my parents came to New Zealand from Samoa in the fifties, along with other Pacific Island families, and started organising the Pacific community. It was good learning for me to grow up in a community that was very close-knit and to be part of the church, women's groups, sports groups, and cultural groups.

As the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment and Associate Minister for Economic Development, I am strongly committed to seeing high employment, good incomes, high educational achievement, and strong and stable families in our Pacific communities.

The Labour-led Government recognises that Pacific people are vitally important to New Zealand - socially, culturally, economically and spiritually. We also acknowledge that there is still work to be done to address inequalities in health, employment and education and we are continuing to work hard to address these issues.

I would like to briefly touch on three themes that I believe are vital to the success for our Pacific communities as we move forward in the 21st century: identity, partnership and innovation.

New Zealand needs our energy, innovation and creativity. The Labour-led Government has set national identity as one of its overarching priorities: it is about who we are as New Zealanders, what we do, where we live, and how we see ourselves and are seen by the world.

Over the past few months I have met with Pacific communities throughout New Zealand, and I am encouraged by the positive developments that Pacific people are making throughout New Zealand by sharing their cultures, languages and values with other New Zealanders and by working in partnership with others.

It is important to promote and celebrate our vibrant and dynamic cultures. Part of what makes New Zealand successful is our cultural diversity - and our inclusiveness.

As part of Budget 2006, Hon Phil Goff and I announced that over the next three years, the Labour-led Government will spend $600,000 on a programme to revitalise the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau languages that are at risk of becoming extinct in New Zealand.

Helping Pacific languages to survive and flourish is an important part of New Zealand's identity as a Pacific nation.

Government recognises that our language, arts and crafts are precious things. They are an integral part of who we are and shape our identity as individuals and communities.

Our culture, heritage and inclusiveness contribute to an evolving New Zealand way of doing things, and a stronger sense of New Zealand identity.

There is a Samoan saying; "E so'o le fau i le fau", which means that a thread can't hold its own - its strength comes from being interwoven with other threads to create the fine mat, which is the most precious in fa'a samoa.

With this saying in mind, Government, businesses and communities need to work respectfully together in order to have a strong and vibrant society.

The recent Meningococcal B campaign led by the Ministry of Health and supported by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs is an excellent example of how successful partnerships can be forged between government agencies, service providers and the Pacific community - 95 per cent of Pacific Island school children completed all three doses.

We are all partners in taking this country forward, and much of our strength comes from our strong sense of connection and community. Unity is also our strength.

We all know that strong families and communities contribute to the social and economic development of a strong, independent nation.

As a Samoan, I know my community is based on families and extended families, aiga, aigapotopoto. Individual identity is defined by aiga. In fa'a samoa the individual and their aiga are inseparable. We do not stand alone.

These are Pacific values, the fruit of Pacific cultures. It is important to reflect on these values when engaging and communicating with Pacific communities in New Zealand, and I hope you all have the opportunity to explore Pacific perspectives further in today's seminar - and also take time out today to enjoy and embrace the special and unique branding and flavour of the Pacific.

As Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, I am committed to ensuring that our younger generations realise their potential, especially in relation to economic self-sufficiency. I have established a working group to develop an economic development action plan for Pacific women. For me, this group showcases the high calibre of educated and experienced Pacific women in their respective careers, and also demonstrates the determination and commitment to shape an economic sustainable future for Pacific women and communities in New Zealand.

New Zealand today has many fine role models of Pasifika achievement - in business, in sport and the arts, in the community sector, and throughout the workforce where there are so many hard working and innovative Pasifika people.

Sportspeople such as Tana Umaga, Beatrice Faumina and Valerie Vili represent the pinnacle of sporting achievement in New Zealand, while Makerita Urale, Sina Urale, Dei Hamo, Scribe, Aaradhna and Ladi-6 are strong representatives for the arts community. Shane Ta'ala from Sway Communications represents the younger generation coming through in the field of Communication and Information Technology (ICT).

We need more young people like them to strive in areas such as ICT and biotechnology that are growing industries in New Zealand, and which provide opportunities for us in the future. These emerging areas underline government's drive for more New Zealanders entering the knowledge-based economy.

Earlier in the year I addressed a Pacific IT forum in Wellington, and noted that "Pacific Islanders were once masters of navigation in our canoes - now we need to develop and navigate highways of communication."

If we are innovative and allow our creativity to grow - we can grow our potential.

I wish you well for your discussions and deliberations today and the new perspectives and ideas that will be made available to you.

It is now my pleasure to officially declare the inaugural Pacific Reach seminar open.

Ia manuia tele.


ENDS

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