Serving Pacific Aotearoa comes very naturally to Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ (MPP) Director of Communications and proud Tongan woman Koula Kutu.
Koula has dedicated herself to advancing social equity outcomes for Pacific peoples, and when COVID-19 hit New Zealand, she was motivated to ensure the Pacific communities throughout Aotearoa were informed, aware and protected.
At the recent Te Rā Ratonga Tūmatanui - Public Service Day Awards in Wellington, Koula became the latest MPP team member to receive Te Tohu Ratonga Tūmatanui o Aotearoa - New Zealand Public Service Medal, for her service, leadership and contributions to Pacific communities in relation to COVID-19 responsiveness, as well as the delivery and support of the Government’s apology for the Dawn Raids event.
Secretary for Pacific Peoples Laulu Mac Leauanae attended the awards ceremony and says Koula’s leadership has been outstanding in these areas.
“Koula’s responsiveness for delivering targeted communication strategies, along with her outreach to and engagement of Pacific communities and leaders has been recognised and acknowledged by many in the community,” Laulu says.
“In the lead up to the awards, we received three commendations from the community supporting her efforts and involvement with each of them.”
Pacific communities have been significantly affected by the impacts of COVID, representing over half the cases during the Delta outbreak.
During this time Koula’s leadership and work with partner agencies, senior government officials and ministers has been critical to influencing timely support and funding of campaigns, to increase vaccination rates, connect people to important information about services and where to get help, Laulu explains.
“Koula works tirelessly for Pacific communities and advocates for the many voices of Pacific communities to ensure their participation and involvement in events such as the Dawn Raids and COVID campaigns are done so with the greatest respect.
“Her qualities of leadership include integrity, respect for others, self-motivation, compassion, confidence, humility, honesty and accountability - I’m so grateful and proud to have Koula at this Ministry.”
Just prior to the nation-wide lockdown in 2020, Koula flew to Auckland to look after her elderly parents to make sure they were supported throughout the lockdown period.
She says everything about COVID-19 was new to her parents and for many other Pacific communities across the country, which motivated her to help them throughout this unprecedented time.
"In my role at MPP, I’ve been in a privileged position to disseminate information to church members regarding COVID-19 and help those who needed support packages using various media channels,” Koula says.
“It’s been such a challenging time for our Pacific communities, and so being able to help translate key information from All of Government into nine Pacific languages has been gold for those communities.”
As a public servant, Koula says her main goal is to continue to champion and advocate for Pacific peoples and ensure the right information is communicated on a variety of platforms.
“We need to give Pacific peoples the support they deserve so they can thrive and grown in Aotearoa, and it is up to all of us to work together to lift the outcomes for both individuals and families.”
As a proud Tongan woman, Koula loves that she can navigate the world through a Tongan and mainstream lens.
"Each lens is adaptable to the other – but in all my work and engagements the foundation of which I work from is based on the Fa’i kavei koula aka the four core values of which the Tongan culture -Faka’apa’apa: acknowledging and returning respect; Anga fakatokilalo/loto tō: humility, and open to learning (evident in being teachable); Tauhi vaha’a/vā: to be prepared to fight/take on the challenges of maintaining relationships (keeping the relationships ongoing, alive and well); and Mamahi’i me’a: loyalty, devotion and passion."
Koula also loves that she can take her cultural values into any aspect of her work and home life.
"I always hear people talking about the different hats they wear and when they put them on or take them off, but in every role I have had, I ensure I wear every hat.
"That’s my point of difference as a Tongan woman today."