Duty and service focus of Tongan Language Week

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

Duty and service to country, community and people are the theme of this year’s Tongan Language Week which runs from Sunday 2 September to Saturday 8 September.

“The theme, ‘Fakakoloa ‘o Aotearoa ‘aki ‘a e ‘Ofa Fonua’ — ‘Enrich Aotearoa with the love of duty and service to country, community and people,’ speaks to the deep patriotism Tongans feel towards Aotearoa-New Zealand and the strength of their community,” says Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio.

 “This is about the confidence and strength of our Tongan communities which are growing rapidly and working hard to protect their language and culture.

“Having recently returned from engagements with the Pacific community in Invercargill, Dunedin, Oamaru and Ashburton to discuss a Pacific Vision for the future of Pacific people’s in New Zealand, Pacific people are emerging all over the regions of New Zealand including a strong growth of the Tongan population,” says Aupito William Sio.

The 2013 census confirmed that Tongans are our third largest Pacific community. With a population of just over 60,000 they account for more than 20 percent of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa-New Zealand. The population grew almost 20 percent over the 2006-2013 census period.

Although the number of Tongan speakers has also grown from just over 23,000 in 2001 to almost 32,000 in 2013, the proportion of speakers has declined from 57 to 53 percent over the same period.

“The growth in the number of Tongan speakers is good news but there has also been a small decline in real terms. This is why we need to continue to support events such as Tongan Language Week and initiatives such as regular Tongan radio programmes, bi-lingual educational units.

“The Tongan community has proved remarkably resilient. The language is recognised within the NZCEA/NZQA framework and the University of Auckland also runs undergraduate Tongan language courses. Tongan is certainly holding its own but the percentage of speakers still needs to grow. I am confident that this can be achieved by the type of determined community action we’re seeing this year.

Major events of the week include a combined service in Parliament’s Grand Hall; a Tongan Community Cultural Night in Christchurch and a Tongan Youth Initiative in collaboration with the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Internet access to Auckland radio coverage of Tongan Language Week will also provide an opportunity for Tongans in Australia, USA, Japan and the United Kingdom to celebrate their language and culture.

“This is also the second time that Tongan Language Week will be celebrated throughout the year with an extensive range of programmes planned across the country and I know that the community will embrace and support this important language week,” says Aupito William Sio.

Note to editors:

Tongan Language Week runs from Sunday 2 September to Saturday 8 September 2018 and will be officially launched by the Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio at the Vaine Mo’onia Methodist Church, 400 Richmond Road in Auckland on Saturday 1 September at 6pm.

Further information about Tongan Language Week including events and resources can be found here.