Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Pacific Women from across Aotearoa’s Police force gathered for their first ever Fono held at the Fale O Samoa in Mangere, Auckland.
Chair of the Fono organising committee Sergeant Nora Hulita (Foliaki) Poching says the organisation is driving to increase the number of women with diverse backgrounds.
“It’s only really now that we’ve had the numbers to have a fono to celebrate each other and our successes. It’s about empowering each other, celebrating the leadership and just celebrating the fact that we are now the face of New Zealand police.”
It’s been more than 80 years since the first intake of women into police training and since then they’ve played an integral part in shaping the organisation. Around 15% of the Pacific constabulary are women.
Patron of the fono who is one of the highest ranking Pacific women in the Police, Assistant Commissioner Sue Schwalger says, “it’s really important to support those that we bring in because it’s not about the numbers, it’s about supporting and building networks so that they can thrive”.
Keynote speakers spoke about empowerment, juggling motherhood and shared their personal experiences. Sergeant Poching says, “our commissioner is saying ‘bring your full self to [the] police’. That includes your values and your identity.”
With women moving up the ranks in the police, Acting Inspector Loretta Hunt-Tevaga is an example and currently the only female Senior Sergeant of Pacific Island descent nationwide.
“I feel like this is a great stepping stone for us to be moving forward. There is still a long way to go but what I hope will come of this is our women will find their voice, they will find their confidence, they will back themselves 110% and that they’ll feel inspired”.
Assistant Commissioner Sue Schwalger is hopeful and confident for the future of Pacific women in the force.
“I really want women to embrace the connections that they make today. Allow them to be stronger, support one another, lean into one another and actually encourage others to do the same.”