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Tupu Aotearoa acts as a catalyst for positive shift in Pacific communities

Tupu Aotearoa acts as a catalyst for positive shift in Pacific communities

  • 27 Sep 2022

Invercargill’s Margaret Paia (pictured) is a 41-year-old New Zealand-born Cook Islander enrolled in the Ministry for Pacific Peoples Tupu Aotearoa programme as she knew there was more out there for her.

"I want to be a change maker who brings positive shifts which impact the communities we live in,” Margaret says.   

Margaret, who joined Tupu Aotearoa two years ago through provider Pacific Trust Otago and under the guidance of Navigator Makalita Maka, says her life has changed dramatically since taking part in the initiative which supports Pacific people to gain education, training and employment opportunities to succeed.

Currently studying towards achieving a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Margaret shares her Tupu Aotearoa journey... 

The Mangaian proverb of my ancestors, ‘me kai koe to kou poke, e uri to aro ki manavaara’ reminds me when we embark on a journey of higher education, our achievements if any, are not for ourselves. 

We take what we have learned back to our people for the betterment of us all. 

My parents left their families and homeland Mangaia in the Cook Islands and settled in Dunedin in the 1970’s. 

I once asked my late mother what her motivation was for leaving all they had ever known. 

The echo of her simple words remains in my heart she said it was to ‘give you a better life’. 

My parents had a vision for their generations, based on Mangaian values, a deep abiding faith and love for God, the preservation of our family, nurturing and caring for one another. 

My father worked long hard hours in factory work and would walk in the rain, hail, and snow so we could eat and have a roof over our head. 

They sacrificed a lot for us so we could have better accessibility to health and wellbeing services, opportunities for higher education, and increased wealth. 

Prior to signing up for Tupu Aotearoa and moving to Southland I had been through a season of adversity and hardship. 

I was working at Alliance Group (Lorneville Plant) as a saw person, and I knew there must be something better for me, so I started praying and dreaming. 

While working full time, I also studied Applied Management at the Southern Institute of Technology, one paper each semester as I was working - I did well and achieved an A and A+. 

During Alliance’s off season, I decided to enrol with Tupu Aotearoa two years ago. 

Navigator Makalita Maka has been such an inspiring positive support. 

I shared with Makalita my aspirations, my desire to gain theoretical knowledge and training in social policy. 

She helped me see my dream as a reality, and to determine training options in alignment with my aspirations. 

Makalita assisted me with my application for study, encouraged me to apply for scholarships, supported me through the process and I have been awarded several scholarships. 

I am now in my second year at Massey University studying towards a BSW. 

The awesome thing is, I have not just been given the help and support through Tupu Aotearoa, but I have been empowered to do the same by helping others in our community. 

Recently, Makalita gave me the opportunity to encourage and assist our year 13 Pacific students with scholarship applications which I really enjoyed. 

Tupu Aotearoa funding also helped me obtain my driver’s licence. 

With support, I have also been awarded a Tupu Tai Internship – at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), working in Building Policy.

My dream is becoming a reality - these opportunities have connected me to wider networks. 

I want to thank Pacific Trust Otago for providing practical experience required for my BSW. 

I witnessed first-hand the impact Tupu Aotearoa is having and the difference it is making for Pacific families. 

We are in a time and season where opportunities for growth and expansion exist. 

We must be able to discern where those opportunities exist, and equally we must have a willingness to step into those open doors of opportunity. 

Tupu Aotearoa has provided that opportunity for me…it has empowered me with confidence to step into a realm I thought I did not belong in.  

I fully endorse anyone considering enrolling into Tupu Aotearoa, especially people who are older like me and desire to change their profession.

Sometimes our people give up too easily on their dreams and aspirations when all they really need is a helping hand to direct them on their journey.

Visit the MPP website for more information on Tupu Aotearoa.