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Vakaola Pacific Community Health Premises Opening

Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban

Opening of Vakaola Pacific Community Health Premises

Our Pacific people are the foundation on which our families and communities are built, and we all have a role to in supporting and promoting the health and wellbeing of our Pacific families.

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Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Namaste, Ia Orana, Gud de tru olgeta, Talofa ni, Talofa, Kia ora tatou and warm Pacific greetings to you all.

Thank you Tevita Finau for your warm introduction and a heart felt thank for asking me to join you today in celebrating the opening of the new Vakaola premises.

A warm welcome to the guests here today:
- Her Excellency Sisilia Talagi, High Commissioner of Niue
- Te Aukura David Isaia, Chairman of the Board and all the Vakaola team;
- Judith Aitken, Chairperson of CCDHB; and Peter Glensor, Chairperson of HVDHB;
- and Jenny Brash, Mayor of Porirua

I am here today as a representative of the New Zealand Government, and also as the proud representative in Parliament of the people of this community, Porirua and Mana - which is one of the most active, hard working, committed and vibrant communities in our country.

Our Pacific people are the foundation on which our families and communities are built, and we all have a role to in supporting and promoting the health and wellbeing of our Pacific families.

The relocation to a bigger centre illustrates how Vakaola has grown to fulfil the needs of its clients and our local community. Vakaola have a good reputation nationally and your expansion illustrates that you are fulfilling a service need and have support from the Pacific community.

You celebrated your 10th anniversary last year and can be proud of your longevity and achievements over this time. Vakaola is highly regarded as a unique model of care providing Pacific specific services for Pacific peoples in this community.

I would like to thank Vakaola for the leadership and work shown in reducing the stigma and discrimination that is often associated with mental health, especially in their work for Like Minds, Like Mine.

Last week Associate Health Minister Steve Chadwick launched the 'Like Minds, Like Mine National Plan 2007 - 2013: Programme to counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.' Our government knows that this programme is making a valuable contribution to creating a more inclusive New Zealand, thanks to the work of community-based projects like Vakaola who have raised awareness and taken the message of social inclusion into their communities.

We know that Pacific perceptions and approaches to mental illness differ markedly from the Western medical approach. We also know that Pacific people are less likely to use mental health services even though they experience mental disorders at higher levels than the general population.

That is why, it is essential that all mental health providers take Pacific perspectives on mental health into consideration when planning services responding to the needs of the Pacific population. Consideration needs to be given to the issues that impact specifically on Pacific mental health, such as the Pacific view that mental health and wellbeing also includes all other aspects of health, social, cultural and spiritual wellbeing. That is precisely what Vakaola embodies and contributes to its success.

Having more experienced and qualified Pacific mental health workers is another key factor in ensuring that the mental health sector delivers the best quality service to all those affected by mental illness. The evidence is clear that there is a need for a strong Pacific mental health workforce who are aware of Pacific people's cultural needs as well as their clinical needs.

It is very heartening to hear that Vakaola management paid for their staff to do the social work diploma at Whitireia - they realise the value of supporting their workforce to expand on their knowledge and experience. It is also heartening to know that momentum is building for the further development of the Pacific mental health and addiction workforce.

For example, Te Pou - the National Centre for Mental Health Research and Workforce Development, has begun to increase its capacity to provide leadership for developing the Pacific capacity of the mental health and addiction workforce.

I hope that you all continue to enhance your skills and act as leaders in Pacific mental health. Together we can help Pacific peoples with mental health problems move to greater independence and raise awareness of mental health issues within the Pacific community.

Under this Labour-led government, Pacific people have made huge economic and social gains, and we have a great opportunity build on these.

Pacific people do experience inequalities in comparison to other New Zealanders, and a higher prevalence of mental disorders and lower levels of utilization of mental health services amongst Pacific peoples contributes to these unequal outcomes. Responsive services to address the social and economic determinants of health, ensure service effectiveness, and improving health outcomes for different Pacific communities are vital.

We need to work together with all our Pacific communities to ensure our people reach their true potential, and that we continue to build on the huge gains of the past nine years under Labour. New Zealand succeeds when our families and communities are strong and thriving - so keep up the good work!

I would like to acknowledge and congratulate you all for the important contribution that you have made to Pacific people's health and well-being.

Some of you will recall that it was during a visit that Prime Minister Helen Clark launched the name Vakaola. Vaka translates to canoe, and ola means life. This service has supported many of our people through rough tides, and assisted them in reaching smoother shores.

You should be very proud of your achievements and the need for a new centre demonstrates your success.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Tevita Finau and his team in organising today's event. I wish you all the very best in your future work and I look forward to hearing of the great work the Vakaola team is doing shaping healthy Pacific communities of the future.

Ia manuia lava.

ENDS

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