Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television

since 1987

New norm funerals may be a long-term option for Pacific community

Tipene Funerals Director Francis Tipene. Photo / Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific community can be applauded for complying with strict funeral limitations during Covid-19 and embracing new ways to farewell our loved ones, says leading funeral director Francis Tipene.

Last Friday 29 May, the New Zealand Government relaxed social distancing restrictions at funerals, which began at the start of lockdown to members of the deceased’s bubble from 50 to now 100 mourners. The government is expected to reassess the numbers again in four weeks’ time.

Mr Tipene, star of the TV reality show The Casketeers and owner of Tipene Funerals in Auckland, has noticed more of the Pacific community are embracing modern technologies, like Zoom, to connect with extended family and friends for daily prayers and funeral services. He expects the practice to continue and become the new norm.

“When we had our first Tongan funeral during lockdown, the church minister was nervous about using the technology. But once he took it on, he could see how beneficial it was in connecting with everyone during a time of restrictions. He’s done a few more funerals since and he’s seeing how it can involve not just family and friends in New Zealand but everyone overseas. For him and elders, they are getting use to this.”

He commends the Pacific community for adhering to the strict guidelines during Covid-19 especially as the regulations were at odds with cultural protocols and customs.

“People doubted that the Pasifika community could do it and suspected that they would be the worst culprits for not following the restrictions. But we know for a fact that our community would be hit the hardest with Covid-19. To counter that, our people became more aware of themselves and their actions.”

Mr Tipene also says Pacific families are noticing how much money they are saving with fewer people at funerals. With many workers losing their jobs due to Covid-19, this could be a motivation to continue using technology at funerals. “Financially, it would be a lot easier on their pockets,” he says.

Senior lecturer in nursing and Pasifika Medical Association member Dr Sione Vaka attended many funerals during the lockdown period and saw firsthand how effective the use of technology was, especially during Failotu — a Tongan tradition of daily prayers when a loved one has died.

“We used technology to pass on the messages and to connect with family and friends. It’s been very helpful in our Tongan society. I think at the start it was a major struggle for the community. But we needed to change for the safety of all our families. Once we adapted, we could see the benefits, like the cut in costs and the fact we were still able to maintain our customs, our traditions and the dignity of the loved one who passed away.”

Pasifika Medical Association Group

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