Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards - The rising young Pacific population of Aotearoa-New Zealand

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

Fa’afetai i lau Susuga ile fa’afeagaiga mo le tatou talosaga momoli. Oute talitonu lava ua mu ma talia le tatou Taulaga osi.

Ae tau ia, ina ia maua ni agaga aua le Atua ma lona finagalo, e tusa ma le tapuaiga i lenei taeao-liu-ga-lua.

Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Kia orana tatou katoa, Taloha ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Nga mihi nui a koutou takoa, tēnā koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

I acknowledge the presence of the Rt Hon Prime Minister, my ministerial and parliamentary colleagues, members of the diplomatic corp, our church leaders, our civic leaders, our community leaders, our traditional leaders – chiefs and orators.

I particularly want to acknowledge all our young people present, especially the award recipients and their families who are with us tonight.

Warm Pacific greetings to you, and each of you tonight.

Welcome to Parliament, welcome to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Pacific Youth Awards celebrations.

In accordance with protocols, can I now take the liberty, on your behalf, and welcome tonight our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Prime Minister, your presence tonight adds dignity and mana to this event. We appreciate all you do for this beautiful country of ours. We acknowledge how hard a task you have, of carrying on your shoulders the weight of responsibility for our entire nation.

I am proud to be a member of your Government and to support your wonderful leadership. Our communities appreciate your wonderful example of a new kind of political leadership - a positive and compassionate politics based on the value of Aroha, or Alofa. A value that Pasifika peoples strive to uphold and cherish.

Tonight we’ve come together to honour and celebrate a few of the very best of our young people, each of whom has excelled in their area. These are members of the rising Pasifika population I often refer to as Generations 6Bs – a Generation that is brown, beautiful, brainy, bilingual, bicultural and bold.

Take Sela for example, who, even before coming here tonight, has been recognised as a top academic achiever – helping lay the foundations for what we hope will be a successful engineering career. Or Janelle and Dejealous, who are doing so much to shape their communities as leaders, mentors and entrepreneurs.

It is always uplifting, in my role, to meet with young people like Sela, Janelle and Dejealous – and to hear from them directly, and those conversations so often generate new ideas; they inspire me, they help remind me of what it means to be a young Pacific New Zealander today – what the challenges are, and what the hopes are for our communities. 

But, more than this, whenever I sit down with young people, I come away with a sense of confidence & hope. Because there is so much we are yet to accomplish, and it is this generation who will be the ones to make it happen.

It’s this goal – of making a better future for current and future generations – that compels someone like Okirana, who at just 17 years of age, is helping tell the story of young people in the Pacific nations. His work is helping us understand their hopes and aspirations for the future – and, what we can do to fulfil them.

And then there is Manuha'apai, who is using art to recreate a space for Queer identities in our Pacific culture. And Louisa, who is making sure our Pacific cultures shape our response to challenges like climate change.  Prime Minister, I met Louisa in Tuvalu for the PIF meeting and she is still there. So her parents will receive her award tonight, on her behalf.

Every one of these young people are part of a young Pacific population that is among the fastest growing in the country. They are our future, New Zealand’s Pacific future. And right now, they stand at the intersection between Pacific history, language and culture and modern Aotearoa.

From here they bring a unique worldview to the decisions we must take as a nation – diverse ethnicities, cultures and languages that will help to shape and reshape Aotearoa New Zealand now, and long into the future.

Take Eteroa, Alexia and Ioane, who are doing so much to creating stronger connections between Pacific people and opportunities in the world of science, technology, engineering and maths. I see them as the modern-day navigators and explorers in the global digital economy.

Thanks to this sort of work I know that we’re going to be living in a world where more and more of the innovations that shape our lives will be coming from Pacific people.

And that cannot happen without people like Keith and Tupou who understand the role business must play in creating products and services that reflect who we are.

One thing I love more than anything else about these awards is that they give us the chance to recognize those Pacific young people who are already leading in innovation in their respective fields with confidence and resilience. They are our scientists, storytellers, visionaries, innovators, and creative artists, explorers and modern-day navigators in the Blue Pacific continent and beyond.

This is a big night for all of you and your families, and for all those who supported you on this journey, and those who came before and paved the way. Enjoy it. Enjoy the celebrations. We are delighted to have the chance to share tonight’s celebrations with you.

Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors for their invaluable support. These events don’t happen without your wonderful backing. Thank you also to Laulu and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples team that made the event happen tonight.

And, of course, thank you Prime Minister for recognizing these exceptional young people for the shining example that you are to them.

To all the recipients of these Awards: Remember who you are. Remember your roots and heritage. Remember your parents, your families and communities. Remember the values they uphold. Remember we are all connected. And remember also my definition of a young person – as long as your mum and dad are alive – you’re a young person.

With that, it is now my great pleasure to welcome our Prime Minister, the Rt Honourable Jacinda Ardern to address us.