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E fofo e le alamea le alamea (To heal a starfish wound is with the starfish itself).
A Samoan proverb that tells us that the solutions for problems within a community lies within the community and its people.
It’s a proverb that is highlighted in the first ever NZ Rugby Pasifika Strategy that was launched at Eden Park last Friday. A document detailing a five-year plan to help sustain the involvement of Pasifika people on and off the rugby field in Aotearoa.
The strategy has been in the works for several years with advisory group Tausoa Faatasi at the helm. Co-chaired by Pauline Jean Luyten and Tauanu’u Nick Bakulich, Tausoa Faatasi ran workshops and seminars across the country gathering a variety of perspectives from pacific communities.
“The key part for us was Pasifika-led. We know our people and how to communicate and the right approaches as well. So, having us be there helped be the connector for our community and NZ Rugby as well,” Pauline said.
“I always think, for example, if a decision was made for rugby to be played on Sundays and in some cases that does happen. But if it was and we were at the table when that decision was made we could then speak up and be like, hey maybe this is not the best time to be playing because of our responsibilities with loku and sisu.”
Attending the launch were Pasifika rugby stars who once donned the black jersey, the likes of Tuifa’asisina Bryan Williams, La’auli Michael Jones and Saveatama Eroni Clarke.
Clarke, who also serves as the Pasifika Engagement Manager for NZ Rugby, says that having a strategy was an honour for those who had served the Pasifika community in the past for those currently serving.
“When I think about our people and the way that we navigated the vast oceans of the sea. I think this whole strategy, it’s very similar. Is that we’re navigating these waters. It’s that we’re using the stars to be guided by,” he says.
An important area highlighted in the strategy was the low number of Pasifika people in governance and executive roles. Although highly represented on the field through the many teams, roles that involved decision-making were quite scarce within the Pasifika community.
Former rugby player and now Canterbury Rugby board member Valentine Tauamiti is someone who has experience on and off the field. His transition from player to board member was a journey for himself, but he believes that many other people can follow his steps with the strategy now in place.
“I know we got the players pathways and we see our players there but off the field we need to see more of Pacific coaches in a governance role and see more of them in that pathway, I guess populated, so that our young people can see a future in the game.
“We can’t sit back and wait for them to be handed to us. We got to knock on those doors and we got to be consistent and loud about it. Just be about it and get into your clubs, get involved in your clubs and get involved in your provincial levels and involved in your school trustees.”
Although positive about what the future holds, Tauamiti says his peers and Pasifika people to step up and make a statement with rugby.
“The best thing we can do is getting our foot in the door and just show them by actions which we’re really good at. We are really good at getting in there and doing the work and walking the talk,” he says.
Clarke echoed those sentiments and says that he is hopeful for more opportunities for Pasifika on the field but also in governance.
“What do I see in the future for us? I see more of our community involved in the non-playing roles in administration particularly in governance. Won’t it be beautiful to see, at some stage, see our first Pasifika CEO within the provincial union and in the super rugby clubs? Will it be wonderful to see, as I’ve heard once before, a Pasifika coach as an All Blacks coach?
“So I see a lot more of a culturally responsive rugby community. It helps our people give a more sense-of-belonging within rugby as well”.