Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Recipient of GirlsBoss Sports Awards, encourages Pasifika youth to aim high in all disciplines

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Mary Florence Tili’ilagi Ieremia-Allan, winner of GirlBoss Sports award. Photo: Supplied
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Breanna Tugaga-Rogers | Te Rito Journalism Cadet

Hamilton sports star and all rounder Mary Florence Tili’ilagi Ieremia-Allan has won one of the coveted awards at the annual GirlBoss Awards held in Auckland last week. 

New Zealand’s annual GirlBoss Awards recognise and celebrate ambitious young women aged 11-18 who are blazing a trail in their communities and creating change as inspiring leaders. 

Of Samoan, South African, English and Scottish heritage 18-year-old Mary was one of the ten winners chosen out of a pool of 450 nominations, ranging from Paihia to Invercargill. With the GirlBoss Awards acceptance rate under 5%, being hand-picked as a winner is a great achievement.

Mary won the GirlBoss category for Sports. The award recognised her excellence in touch rugby and hockey at a regional and national level. The former head girl for Hamilton Girls’ High School is also a record holder for triple jump in athletics.

Mary is one of 10 winners chosen from a pool of 450 nominations. Photo: Supplied

During her acceptance speech, Mary said she is honoured by the award and joked, “as a young Pasefika woman my athleticism comes from being clotheslined by my older brothers in rugby, or from dodging lightning fast jandals coming from my Aunty’s hand.” 

While sport is in her blood – her Uncle is former All Black and Manu Samoa coach Alama Ieremia and Aunty, former SIlver Fern April Ieremia, Mary is not only passionate about sports but is ambitious for Pasifika youth and young women to showcase their skills and talent in all disciplines and let the community know what they have to offer. 

“At first I felt a bit confined by the title of ‘sports’ winner, as Pasefika people are unfortunately often recognised in this field only in Aotearoa but the closer I came to giving my award winning speech to some of the most influential people and sponsors in Aotearoa, the more I realised how great an opportunity this really was to speak about matters close to my heart.” 

Mary wants to encourage other Pasefika to showcase their skills and talent in all disciplines. Photo: Supplied

For Mary who is a violinist, former youth representative on the Hamilton City Council, earned a scholarship to participate in the UN Youth programme, and has attended youth leadership summits across the country she says there are so many Pasifika out there excelling in their chosen fields and would love to see more Pasifika get involved in initiatives and awards like GirlBoss.

“I pray that standing in such a space like many before me, will further normalise the success of young Pasefika in such spaces. Not just for sporting awards, but I pray for further STEM, innovation, well being, and other academic awards for our Pasefika youth. 

Founder of GirlBoss NZ, Alexia Hilbertidou says, “we must recognise the contribution of our young women and encourage them to keep striving and pushing for change, not only for themselves but for their community, country, and the world.”

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