Pasifika youth strive to change poor stats

PAST recipients of a government award recognising high-achieving Pacific youth are striving to turn around poor socioeconomic and education rates for Pasifika in New Zealand.

The annual Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards recognise and reward high-achieving young Pacific people and are designed to motivate and inspire more.

Since its inception in 2010, awards have been presented in a number of categories including leadership, business and enterprise, science and technology and sports.

This year the awards will give up to $90,000 in tuition or grants to young Pacific high achievers.

For many of the recipients the grants are life-changing and have opened up doors for them to gain work experience within the region.

Twenty-five-year-old Mary Tiumalu won the inspirational award category in 2013 and used her grant to work for children’s rights in the Pacific.

“I started in Fiji and I worked for a non-government organisation promoting the rights of children and then I did that same sort of thing in Samoa,” she said.

“It was definitely eye-opening. But it also, sort of resonated with me because I do come from a very humble family.

“So seeing that and being able to go into the Pacific Islands, you just realise the importance of using your skills to really further Pacific peoples wherever you’re situated, whether that’s in Auckland or in the Pacific Islands.”

She is calling other young people in her community to help change Pasifika statistics.

“If you’re really willing to try and change the status quo, put yourself out there,” she said.

“Try and get involved in as much as you possibly can to gain the skills necessary to be an effective citizen, to contribute to changing those statistics.”

Last year a new science category was introduced in an attempt to encourage more Pacific people into the field.

Antony Vavia is a marine biology student of Cook Islands and Fijian heritage and said his life has been an adventure since he won the award.