Acknowledging Pasifika achievement in all arenas

posted: 10:00 am - 16th February 2018

Structural Engineer at Beca Limited Karina Kaufusi (pictured) says it is time to recognise successful Pasifika across the board – not just in the sporting arena – to inspire future generations. 

“It is amazing there is huge recognition within the sporting arena for successful Pasifika people, however, there is also a growing amount of Pasifika people succeeding within the academic/creative/business arenas also needing recognition,” Karina says. 

The 2013 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award (PMPYA) Leadership category winner says there is a need to acknowledge Pasifika people across all borders because it helps provide inspiration and role models for upcoming Pasifika youth; and showcases brown faces within New Zealand doing great things. 

The PMPYA acknowledges all areas where Pasifika are achieving – including leadership, STEM, the arts, sport and business - and Pacific youth should apply because it can lead to many more doors opening beyond what’s offered by the awards, Karina adds.

 “These awards are also great opportunities to get your foot in the door within working in your aspiring industries, networking with various successful people and getting valuable working experience with some of the top companies within New Zealand.” 

When Karina applied for the PMPYA, she was studying a Bachelors conjoint degree of Engineering and Commerce, with the goal of graduating and becoming an Engineer and gaining skills to give back to her community. 

She says winning the Leadership award has had a huge impact on helping her achieve her goal. 

It lessened her financial stress during university and helped her to focus more on graduating, while it also served as a constant reminder and encouragement to stay true to her purpose.

Having been in the industry for three years now, Karina has aspirations of becoming more involved in projects throughout the Pacific, and in particular Tonga where she stems from, she says.

“With climate change affecting our homelands and natural disasters including the most recent one – Cyclone Gita, I hope to get involved in projects that help protect our islands from these issues.”

Currently, Karina – whose brother Rossier is also an Engineer, working in London - is busy promoting engineering to Pasifika students and supporting Pasifika in the industry, something she is very passionate about, she says.

“I’m involved in Futureintech, which is an organisation that promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) projects to high schools, and I’m also part of the management committee for South Pacific People Engineering Excellence (SPPEEx).”  

SPPEEx is a Māori and Pasifika group with a vision to “grow a community of Māori and Pasifika Engineers to promote the engineering profession in our communities, to support our on-going career success and to increase diversity in engineering”.  

Additionally, Karina is a mentor with the First Foundation scholarship initiative, where she supports a young aspiring Engineer. 

Applications for the 2018 PMPYA recently closed, and Karina has kindly agreed to feature on the final judging panel to assess the applicants on February 19 and 21, along with fellow PMPYA past winner Antony Vavia and community members.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to give back and show appreciation for receiving the reward – it was also such an honour to be asked to be involved I couldn’t decline the offer,” Karina says. 

“It’s not every day you get to be asked to be directly involved in a process that can change someone’s life.”

Successful applicants for the 2018 PMPYA will be informed of the outcome in the near future and presented with their award at an awards ceremony on March 28.

Visit PMPYA for more information about the initiative.