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Laban: PACIFICA Passion

4 April, 2008

Speech at PACIFICA Wellington Branch Fundraiser, 'PACIFICA Passion', Marist St Pat's Rugby Clubrooms, Hataitai

Ou te fa’atulou atu i le paia lasi lasi i afioga tamali’i, tama’itai ma sa’o ao o le fa’apotopotoga aoao tama’ita’i Pasifika.

Talofa lava, Kia Orana, Taloha ni, Fakalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Malo e lelei, Gude tru olgeta, Kia Ora Tatou, and Warm Pacific Greetings to you all.

Thank you all for being here tonight to support PACIFICA, and this evening of fashion, entertainment and dance.

PACIFICA helped many Pacific Island women make the transition from their homelands to this new land.
PACIFICA is an organisation that has been run by Pacific Island women for Pacific Island women.

Let us remember the pioneers: Eleitini Paddy Walker, Seiuli Moira Walker, Fanaura Kingston, Doreen Cooper, Christina Betham, Tala Cleverly, Rosie Crichton, Tepaeru Tereora, Sina Meredith, Tina Wickes, Ele Matagi, the late Elaine Annadale, the late Luisa Crawley, Poko Morgan, the late Tafa Poutoa, Tia Naik, and Emi Tunupopo Laban are some of the familiar names. And there are many more.

I remember those early meetings of PACIFICA well. Like many of the daughters of those pioneers, it was our job to serve the food, do the dishes and do our mothers’ bidding. (Like I still have to do today.) I joined PACIFICA at an early age.

Today PACIFICA is working to support, encourage and create opportunities for a new generation of dynamic Pacific women and their families. Modern Pacific women making their way in a world that their mothers dreamt of, worked towards, and made possible.

The purpose of this evening is to raise awareness of breast and cervical screening of Pacific women – and to raise funds! This event is possible, because of the passion of our Wellington PACIFICA branch, so it is aptly called "PACIFICA Passion."

I would like to particularly like to acknowledge and thank the members of Wellington PACIFICA branch who have worked extremely hard to make tonight possible. A special acknowledgement to Mele Wendt president of the Wellington branch of PACIFICA. Fa’afetai tele lava!

I’ve been asked to offer a few words of encouragement.

I will start by sharing some statistics with you:
• 1 in 3 cancers occurring in New Zealand women is breast cancer
• Approximately 2,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year
• Over 6 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each day
• Over 600 women die from breast cancer each year
• 1 in 10 women in New Zealand will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime
• The age range where the incidence of breast cancer is highest, women aged 50-54.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Sometimes if you haven’t felt the loss personally, it just becomes alarming statistics on female mortality. But there is another statistic - 1 in 10 men in New Zealand will lose a sister, mother, daughter or wife to breast cancer.

I want to encourage all women, to have regular mammograms as early diagnosis provides a greater chance of a good outcome.

But it is not all gloom and doom. The message that I want you to remember is that being told that you have cancer is not a death sentence – it is a life sentence of vigilance.

It is a reminder to celebrate life, to live your life one day at a time, and to make the most of every day.

Our Labour-led government is committed to reducing illness and deaths from breast cancer which affects the lives of many New Zealanders, women, and their families.
We know through research that routine breast screening reduces a woman’s chance of dying of breast cancer by between 20 to 45 per cent.

Breast Screen Aotearoa's programme, provides two-yearly free breast screening for eligible women aged 45 to 69. It is an initiative about reducing the number of women who die from breast cancer each year.

Campaigns around breast screening particularly focus on messages that appeal to Maori and Pacific women, raising awareness and focus in normalising the subject of screening and increase understanding about its benefits.

The tone of these campaigns is positive, with a focus on respect, knowledge and support for good reason. There is a lack of awareness about breast screening in general but particularly among Maori and Pacific women who also have cultural issues about their bodies to deal with.

Culture affects health and amongst Pacific and Maori women the uptake rate of regular mammograms is low compared with other ethnicities.

Despite having a similar risk to other women of getting breast cancer, Pacific and Maori women are over represented in the mortality rates because they are not getting screened early.
As a result, they are more likely to have advanced disease at the time of diagnosis and are over represented in mortality rates.

There is reluctance amongst women to talk about these issues, as we are often frightened and private about our bodies. I hope we can start to take the fear out of breast cancer and encourage women to have regular mammograms as early detection is best.

A mammogram is not fun, but it might just save your life.

My breast cancer was found through a routine mammogram.

My message to all women, but particularly Pacific women is have breast checks. We can survive cancer to live a long and happy life with our families – and regularly screening makes this more likely. We want our women to encourage and support one another to be screened, and be supported by their husbands and families.

Talking is one of the things our Pacific people do best – what's important about tonight is getting our women, men and families talking openly about the importance of regular check-up's.

It is time that we Pacific women take charge of our health and well-being. We are not victims of preventable diseases like diabetes or obesity. And we can fight diseases like breast cancer and cervical cancer through education, awareness and good treatment.

Let me conclude with a poem that celebrates our strength as Women of the Pacific.

We, the women of the Pacific are strong.

We gain our strength from our ancestors,
our extended families and our places of belonging.
We do not stand alone.

We gain our strength from our cultures,
our Pacific Island languages,
our stories, our art and our traditions.
They shape our past, our present and our future.

We take strength from our traditional knowledge of
healthy island food, pure water, clean air,
and the dance that exercises our bodies and souls.

We also gain our strength from the sacred waters of the Pacific.
The ocean birthed us and our many islands,
she sustains and connects us together.

We the women of the Pacific are strong.
One people, our family, the Pacific.

Ia maniua and thank you.


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