(Picture caption: Coordinator Lana Shields and founder/chairman Vui Suli Tuitaupe celebrate the first anniversary of Moana Vā.)
Growing up in Christchurch, Vui Suli Tuitaupe struggled to access role models or the right supports to help navigate his identity as a gay Samoan individual.
The trauma experienced and the lived realities of other Pacific Rainbow+ individuals led to the genesis of Moana Vā – Navigators of Pacific Pride.
Vui alongside a large collective made up of Pacific Rainbow+ individuals and their families, friends and supporters, founded Moana Vā – a safe space for Pacific Rainbow+ individuals and their families to seek advice, friendship, advocacy and support.
Moana Vā aims to identify and address the needs of Pacific Rainbow+, LGBTQIA+, and MVPFAFF+ (mahu, vakasalewa, palopa, fa’afafine (fa’atama), akava’ine, fakaleiti (leiti), fakafifine) individuals in the Canterbury region.
Recently, the Canterbury-based organisation celebrated its first birthday during the annual Christchurch Pride week.
Since its inception, Moana Vā has garnered a subscription base of 5500 followers – 29 percent who are from the Canterbury region and 71 percent who are from across New Zealand, Australia, Japan and even the United States.
Vui, who is also the chairperson of Moana Vā, says over the past year the organisation has focused on becoming visible in its region, building their networks and enhancing their relationships.
“My desire for Moana Vā is to enable a collective that supports, advocates, empowers, mentors, and strengthens our MVPFAFF+, LGBTQIA+, and Rainbow+ communities locally and globally,” Vui says.
“My vision is to provide a safe, respectful, inclusive, and engaging space for our communities and their families to navigate and celebrate our Pacific pride.
“There are challenges of living in a region that is conservative, which enables unconscious racial bias and stereotypes of our community members.
“We have heard stories from members who found it easier to come out in other regions because of the systemic conservative nature of the Canterbury region.
“Many of those who seek assistance have come to us saying they are struggling to come out to their family or publicly and want to be part of the advocacy work we do.
“We also have families who come to us because they want advice around how to interact and support their loved one who is trying to navigate their life as a member of the Rainbow+ community.”
In February last year, Moana Vā hosted the online Grand Coming Out launch which gathered support from individuals and communities from around Aotearoa and the Pacific.
This was also supported by a host of community and government agencies from across Aotearoa, including the Ministry for Pacific Peoples.
Vui paid tribute to those who were instrumental in bringing Moana Vā to life.
Moana Vā coordinator Lana Shields says the organisation will maintain its role of collaborating and building relationships over the next year, but more importantly celebrating its successes as a family.
Part of Moana Vā’s values as an organisation is celebration, which they have been doing a lot of over the past year.
“We have focused on our successes more…what’s cool is we have a collective all growing together; all flavours are welcome, regardless of ethnicity,” Lana says.
Visit the Moana Vā website for more information.