Speaking at a Pasefika Proud Community Leaders Fono in 2016, Hon. Peseta Sam Lotu-I’iga wanted to remind Pacific community leaders about the importance of being present in the fight against family violence.
“Our Government has put up its hand to say that we need to fix our house … CYFS needs a revamp and things need to change,” he said.
Peseta said that Pacific children are over-represented in the statistics for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
He urged community and church leaders to step up, “so we can all work together to tackle this,” he said.
“The government knows and understands the important contribution Pacific people make to New Zealand’s economic, social and cultural well-being. But we cannot do it alone.”
He questioned whether Pacific humour sometimes incorporates the acceptance and the normalisation of violence, recalling how tales of “getting a hiding” by their parents often results in laughter.
“We joke about the jandal and the salu (broom) and, dare I say it, we used to joke about the sapelu (machete),” he said.
“But is that appropriate behaviour, normalising the violence that too often occurs in our families?”
Peseta said the acceptance of such behaviour leads to a reluctance by families to seek the appropriate help when needed.
While acknowledging providers are doing their best for their communities, he said the government has and is committed to providing the resources required.
But he also asked that social service providers realistically assess how well they’re equipped to deal with the issue.
“I see a lot of people that have been involved in social services for a very long time,” he said.
“I ask you to think about whether your services meet the needs of our children, the required standards and whether the services provided to our families and communities are coordinated well.”
He asked that providers think about how they measure their success in dealing with issues and whether the children involved are doing well, not only in terms of education, but general health and wellbeing.
“Think about the importance of role models and what you are doing to make positive change for our kids, communities and families. Work better and smarter and I urge you to work together.”