Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

New book sharing Pasifika autism journeys “a world first”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Alice Lolohea
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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

Inside the Takanini Community Hub in Auckland, families pack into a little room as author and founder/director of Mila’s Books Dahlia Malaeulu, shares the genesis of her latest project. 

The book vĀsifika: Our Autism Journeys has launched in time for World Autism Awareness Day. A wealthy resource of Pacific stories, Dahlia says the book is “a world first.”

“It’s the very first of its kind to be able to capture the stories of not just one particular generation. It’s got stories from Pasifika autistic children themselves as well as parents, grandparents, which is really unheard of.” 

Founder of Mila’s Books Dalia Malaeulu (centre) and co-founder of PASG Betty Pulefolau (right). Photo: Alice Lolohea

With 14 years as an educator and a mother to her son Mason who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for Dahlia the book, “was a long time in the making.”

“It was sitting in my heart for a long time because I know about the needs and the gaps in terms of better educating, better supporting our people on their autism journeys.” 

“It’s only when you connect with others that you go, oh my gosh, there’s actually some beauty and some support and there’s that vā that needs to be established for so many more people to get that support.”

The book includes stories from parents and grandparents of neurodiverse tamaiti and co-founder of PASG Brian Pulefolau (far right) says “it’s important to actually get the stories from our older generation.” Photo: Alice Lolohea

The book was made with the support of Your Way/Kia Roha, Altogether Autism, Te Pou and the Pasifika Autism Support Group (PASG). 

PASG co-founder Betty Pulefolau says some of the families were initially hesitant to share their stories, “they said, oh no, what do we have to offer?” Betty remembers.

“They were like, do we wanna share? And I said, you have a lot. I asked them questions and they were replying and at the end of it, we were just having a good talanoa about their journey.”

Betty’s husband and PASG co-founder Brian says vĀsifika is not just important for Pasifika children with autism, but an important resource for our elders as well. 

“It’s important to actually get the stories from our older generation…and not all of them are all here and that’s a gap that’s missing”

“But if we can collect as much information as possible, it just means we collect the data, we can get some historical stories behind that allow us to plug up some of these gaps.

Autism or disability in general, affects all those who give birth to a child. And it’s our responsibility to raise that child, but support other parents at the same time. So there are things that we’re all learning about being in this vaka; Where do we sit in this vaka? How inclusive is this vaka? What does it look like?”

That vaka means creating versions of the book that can be easily understood by all Pacific readers.

Betty says they are looking to translate vĀsifika into numerous Pacific languages for elderly readers, “so they can hear in their language what our journey is.”



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