Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific Language Strategy: a plan for the next decade and beyond

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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John Utanga | Senior Journalist

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples unveils a strategy for Pacific languages which looks to the future while honouring the Past.

“When Pacific languages are heard, spoken and celebrated, Pacific communities thrive. And when our Pacific communities thrive, Aotearoa is a better place for us all.”

That’s the simple message which underpins the government’s new ten-year Pacific Languages strategy launched last week at the Beehive in Wellington. 

And as if to emphasise that point, the Pacific community was invited along to celebrate in song and dance with Pacific People’s Minister Aupito William Sio and the officials who led the strategy’s development. 

“If we don’t invest strongly, if we don’t unite around valuing languages and promoting it, the trend is a declining trend, particularly as more and more of our children are born in Aotearoa,” says Aupito.

Set for the next ten years, the strategy will look to support Pacific languages across government, Pacific communities and key stakeholders. And it will build on the extra money this government has already invested in the community over the last few years.

“As part of our Pacific well-being approach, government invested $20 million to start developing this greater investment in languages,” Aupito says.

“I think in the last four years we’ve seen a lot more resourcing out in the communities; we’re seeing younger people feeling a sense of confidence about who they are because the language is at the heart of your well-being, your sense of belonging and your identity.”

“What we know from international evidence; when governments pay attention and value it and promote it, we’re able to ensure that languages flourish and thrive.” 

As well as the strategy, the “Leo Moana O Aotearoa” language survey was also presented by representatives of nine Pacific nations who were honoured as pioneers of their respective languages.

“It’s been the community who’ve championed this and this is one of the reasons why it’s important for us to pay respect to the many champions of the language who are no longer with us. Because this has been their dream so this is their legacy,” Aupito says.

And receiving the reports were youth champions representing the nine communitie who are well aware of the challenge ahead.

“Tonight was a tribute and paying homage to those who were leaders and legends, pioneers in making sure that our languages survived outside of our respective homes in the Pacific,” says Nathan Lopa, youth representative for the Tokelau community.

“Very proud tonight that many of our languages were paid tribute to… as well, for me to accept the language strategy on behalf of Tokelau, very, very overwhelming and emotional.” 

Dominique Kafatolu, Cook Islands Youth Representative, knows well the connection the language has with a culture, a way of life.

“When I talk about our Kuki Airani reo, it always goes along with our Turanga Maori, our Cook Islands Identity, and our akono’anga Maori; the way of the Cook Islander,” he says. 

“It’s awesome to know that, MPP is trying to sustain this and sustain our culture along with it, especially our dancing, our singing and all our proverbs as well that have been passed on for generations.”

Tonga youth representative ‘Ana To’iahi Havea says the strategy is a great development but says that in the end, it’s up to individuals to take that first step.

“No matter what journey you’re on, whether you can speak your language, whether you can’t; don’t be afraid to learn, don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, we’re all on this journey together no matter where we are.” 

The strategy will be implemented in two ways. Firstly a government action plan which outlines the actions and commitments of key government agencies to help achieve the aims of the Strategy. This is being developed in partnership between the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Education Ministry, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

And secondly, through individual community action plans where further Talanoa will be held with each community to identify their specific priorities for supporting their languages.



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