Throughout her childhood, Latayvia Tualasea Tautai had no family vehicle, stayed in friends’ garages, emergency housing, a women’s refuge and transitional housing.
But as a Pacific person who was raised to serve and “give what you can”, she overcame the hardship and is now on a mission to inspire others.
Latayvia, 24, was the Leadership and Inspiration winner at this year’s Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards (PMPYA).
The award was proudly sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Air New Zealand.
She was one of nine Pacific young people winners who demonstrated how they have created a positive impact on their chose field in recent years.
This year’s winners were acknowledged at a formal gathering at Parliament last week.
Latayvia was born and raised in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), a journey she said was marred by financial hardship.
“We moved over 18 times,” Latayvia added.
“However, the constant in my life has been my Nanny Talili Tautai’s house in Mangere east... that is my safe space.”
Now, Latayvia is living her grandparents’ migrant dream with an illustrious track record of work she has done in her community.
Her record includes, presenting to more than 3000 Māori and Pacific students in south and west Auckland through panels, workshops and education events.
She was an advocate and spokesperson for “Mind the Gap”, a campaign that sought to close the gender and ethnic pay gap.
Latayvia also worked for a Pacific social service provider as a financial mentor and co-designed a financial literacy course with south Auckland high schools.
She also supported the Y25 programme for the YWCA – which recognises local heroes across Aotearoa. She is currently co-leading that project.
On top of that, she worked as a community partner with Auckland Council to encourage civic participation among Pacific youth and organised stationery drives across Auckland for wāhine in prison who were working to gain NCEA credits.
She said she wanted her story to inspire other young Pacific people.
“I was made to feel embarrassed about being in material poverty throughout my childhood and teenage years.
“Life can be so tough, especially as a young Pacific person navigating racism, mental health struggles, poverty and all of the hardships that come with it.
“My advice would be to utilise the supports around you, we all deserve to have access to adequate housing, food, tools to survive first in order to thrive.
“You are not alone and our Pasifika advocates have fought for years so that we could have access to supports.”
When asked what the award meant to her, Latayvia replied:
“I was 10 years old when my family had to flee to a women’s refuge.
“Fast forward to being 24 years old and I am now receiving the PMPYA for Leadership and Inspiration and deciding which country to complete my Air New Zealand funded travel and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade internship.
“There’s so much stigma in our community around accessing WINZ or social service support. But the whole purpose is to be a social safety net to help people get back on their feet.
“Your worth is not based off your productivity, the awards you get or the amount of money you make.
“I wish I knew earlier that accolades don’t heal trauma.
“It’s taken burning out then access to counselling; hard, courageous conversations with my family, journalling, focusing on hauora, self-examination to understand how important it was to pour into myself so that I could sustainably serve my community.
“Culture is our birth right. What a blessing it is to be Pacific.
“To hail from navigators, way finders and giants. We are the generation that have been afforded the opportunity to demand more for our communities and create more.
“Whenever I enter spaces such as the financial sector that don’t look like us, I remind myself that I have the opportunity to set a precedent for how the next young Pacific person should be treated.
“On a final note, I am very thankful to the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Air New Zealand for this opportunity. I am truly grateful!”
Latayvia and her aiga hail from the “pearl of the Pacific” – Samoa; from the villages of Levi Salimoa, Solosolo and Amaile Aleipata.
Leadership and Inspiration Award
This award recognises a young person who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities by leading a project in their community, church or school, or has acted in a way that has inspired others to make a positive change in their own life or the lives of others.
Air New Zealand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade were proud to support the potential of Pasifika youth through the Leadership & Inspiration Award.
MPP will be profiling the remaining winners of the PYMPA in the new year.