Pacific Practitioners' Fono – Waikato, Bay of Plenty & Taranaki

Kirikiriroa Hamilton was the venue of the latest round of Fono for Pacific Practitioners working in the field of family violence and sexual violence (FV/SV) for practitioners based in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki regions in March 2024.

Fono participants were welcomed into K’aute Pasefika’s community fale and village by Leaupepe Rachel Karalus, Chief Executive. Her acknowledgement of the collective journey of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa set the tone for the theme of the fono, ‘Celebrating the Transformative Power of Connection.’

The theme had an emphasis on the importance of connecting, staying connected and speaking to the profound value of fostering and nurturing relationships between government agencies and communities across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki Regions.  

The fono also looked to celebrate the transformative power of connection, weaving a tapestry of collaboration, support, and positive outcomes for Pasifika people, and is the latest of a series of fono for Pacific Practitioners working in the field of family violence and sexual violence (FV/SV).  

This fono followed others already held for practitioners based in the greater Wellington region, Te Tai Tokerau in Whangarei, and all of South Island in InvercargillThe series of fono stem from the inaugural national fono held in Auckland in June of last year mobilising Pacific practitioners from around the country, which sparked the drive to delve deeper into the discussions on frontline practice, workforce development and practitioner wellbeing in the regions.   

It's important to acknowledge the regional komiti responsible for the design of the fono. Their input makes each fono unique, regionally led and fit for purpose. The regional komiti for Waikato included Marina McMahon-Ieremia (K'aute Pasifika), Fili Tuia (K'aute Pasifika), Anggie Tuifua (K'aute Pasifika), Uipo Uipo-Tagaloasa (Tautoko Tane) and Marion Mauga (Tautoko Tane). 

There was good representation from government agencies, namely Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Development, NZ Police, Ara Poutama - Department of Corrections, Oranga Tamariki, Te Puna Aonui and Regional Public Service office who were onsite to provide information and listen to the discussions.  

A significant purpose of the Hamilton meeting was to give practitioners guidance on ways to aid Pacific people who required help, and the confidence needed to enter into the system. Sadly, too many Pacific people are still not reaching out for help needed. 

Guest speaker, Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann, a well-respected figure in Pacific health, shared his insights from more than 35 years of experience in that field. 

He talked about Pasifika cultural frameworks, such as Fono-Fale, Sei Tapu: Clinical and Cultural Competency and the Tongan Kalisi Model. 

He said those frameworks, and others, showed the importance of merging clinical and cultural practices and also demographic specific approaches to address FV/SV in Pasifika communities. 

Attendees were told the system was traumatic for the very people it was supposed to help/heal, and with just a one per cent conviction rate for sexual violence, from a country with the highest rate of such violence in the OCED, something needed to be done. 

A Le Va spokesperson said throughout the day participants shared "lived experiences", discussed practitioner well-being, and presented updates within the context of Te Aorerekura - the Government's National Strategy to eliminate FV/SV. 

"While Atu-Mai's focus is on violence prevention, it is important for us to understand the context and issues facing the wider sector," they said. 

"The value of connecting with others to share knowledge, ideas and experiences helps everyone to work better, so Pasifika communities can thrive." 

One of the other highlights was hearing from Marion Mauga, Peer Support and Social Worker,  Taranaki and Uipo Tagaloasa Lead Peer Support Worker, Bay of Plenty both employed by Tautoko Tane.  They courageously shared their lived experiences as well as an insight into the work they are doing working with male survivors of sexual abuse.  The insights into their individual journeys of healing and recovering were real and raw, the connections they drew into the work they are leading was inspiring.

Marion Mauga, Peer Support and Social Worker, Taranaki and Uipo Tagaloasa Lead Peer Support Worker, Bay of Plenty both employed by Tautoko Tane.

Marion Mauga, Peer Support and Social Worker, Taranaki and Uipo Tagaloasa Lead Peer Support Worker, Bay of Plenty both employed by Tautoko Tane.

 “It was a privilege to hear their stories and then to meet some of their family members who were there in support. I loved how we were able to then honour them as participants at the conclusion of their presentation with song, siva and prayer” said one participant.  

For attendees from Anglican Action the event proved to be an invaluable platform for engaging with fellow practitioners and delving into critical discourse surrounding these pressing societal concerns. 

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have attended such a significant gathering, as it provided us with profound insights and key takeaways that will undoubtedly inform and enrich our professional practice. The lineup of distinguished speakers delivered compelling presentations, offering invaluable perspectives and practical strategies that will undoubtedly enhance our interactions with tangata whaiaro, empowering us to better support and advocate for those affected by Family Violence and Sexual Violence,” said Lucy Afoa from Anglican Action.  

Liz Tanielu of Te Puna Aonui spoke to Te Aorerekura - National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence and the vision to ensure all people in Aotearoa are safe and supported to live their lives free from family violence and sexual violence. 

It was a much-needed vision as Superintendent Fata William Fanene of NZ Police told the audience that the issue of FV/SV was "a core role" for Police in partnership with other agencies and an area where Pacific people were over-represented in the data. 

The regional Public Services Commissioner, Ezra Schuster, admitted the issues faced were "deep, complex and historical". 

He said they could talk about systems and structures, but to put it simply the heart of the system were the people. 

"My job is to bring agencies together to enable local leadership to strive and deliver services," 

In closing, fono participants were invited back by the Chair of K’aute Pasifika, Namulauulu Lale Ieremia who took the time to acknowledge the important and often hard work of the practitioners.  Following the Fono, a social media post from hosts K'aute Pasifika praised the efforts of all those involved. 

It said the theme of "Connections" spoke of the "profound value" of fostering and nurturing relationships between government agencies and the community across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki regions. 

"The beauty of sharing resources drives better outcomes for our people, it's a hard space to work in and the work is plenty," the post said. 

"(That is) why it is so important for us to pause, connect, and share the wealth of knowledge we all have as we do our part to eliminate violence in our communities." 

“As we reflect on our participation in the Fono, I am eager to uphold the momentum of these newfound connections and continue the dialogue beyond the confines of this event. I am committed to nurturing these relationships and leveraging them as catalysts for collective action and positive change within our respective spheres of influence" – Lucy Afoa, Anglican Action.

The remaining fono to be held are being planned for: 

  • Hawkes Bay practitioners on 13 June 2024 
  • Auckland based practitioners on 27 June 2024 

For more information 

Pasefika Proud is a proud partner supporting the delivery of regional fono’s as the lead programme for family violence prevention for Pacific peoples through the Nga Vaka o Kāiga Tapu Pacific cultural framework. (Te Aorerekura - Shift 4)

Also of interest:

  1. Fono brings together South-Island based practitioners
  2. Pacific Practitioners' Forum Update
  3. Time for Action on Pacific Practitioners' Forum Plans
  4. Te Aorerekura Hui Jun 2023 - Strengthening working being done
  5. National Pacific Practitioners' Fono
  6. Te Aorerekura - A step in the right direction
  7. National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence
  8. Government launches significant initiative towards violence prevention & elimination