Finding a sense of cultural belonging

posted: 9:00 pm - 15th November 2020
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(Picture caption: Sally Dalhousie, winner of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) sponsored Pacific Community Leadership Award at the 2020 SunPix Awards, along with Secretary for Pacific Peoples and MPP CEO Laulu Mac Leauanae. Photo by SunPix.) 

Growing up in Invercargill in New Zealand’s Deep South, Tongan Sally Dalhousie and her siblings had no extended close-by and were isolated from other Pacific cultures. 

That was until Sally’s mother Malia Sesilia Funaki helped start the Invercargill branch of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A. Inc, New Zealand’s only national Pacific women’s organisation, along with Eleitino Paddy Walker and others during the 1970s. 

Sally went onto study social work at the University of Otago in Dunedin and is now a Registered Social Worker, working as the Chief Operating Officer at The Fono, in Auckland.   

“My time at Otago University gave me a better understanding about where I was located in time and space, politically, economically, socially and culturally,” Sally says.   

“I came out transformed and sought to be of empowering use to those with little power,” she adds.    

From a young age, Sally was deeply interested in social justice issues, while her isolation from Pacific culture as a youth has fuelled her desire to connect with the Tongan and Pacific communities in Aotearoa.   

“I was born at a time of significant social movements which were happening around the world – the black movement and the second wave of feminism. 

“My father’s core values of honesty, integrity and endeavour combined with my mother’s Tongan heart lead me to find my place in the world, working with Pacific to build stronger communities.” 

In 2006, Sally moved to Auckland when her son commenced university. She began her time with The Fono, which provides affordable services including medical, dental, social, pharmacy, health promotion, education and Whanau Ora at six handy locations in Auckland and Northland, 11 years ago.

The energy and dedication Sally has invested into the organisation over time, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been recognised at the recent 2020 SunPix Awards, where she collected the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) sponsored Pacific Community Leadership Award, alongside The Cause Collective founder Rachel Enosa. 

The Pacific Community Leadership category recognises Pacific people who lead community organisations in any field that strengthen Pacific communities. 

Sally has dedicated the award to her mother, who is overjoyed her daughter has received this accolade. 

“It is humbling to see how much happiness this has brought to her, my siblings, my son and his family and all of my extended Tongan family. 

“I am so very pleased for The Fono to be recognised through this award, as without The Fono, I could not have found the deep sense of cultural belonging which was missing for me for so much of my life.” 

Sally is in awe of Chief Executive Officer Tevita Funaki and the Board, and the staff who go above and beyond the call of duty every day with such willing hearts, she says. 

It is onwards and upwards for Sally and the Pacific communities she assists. 

“I want to help prove Pacific communities have the answers to their own challenges, and only need their rightful resources in order to get on with appropriately caring for themselves. 

“An integrated Pacific model of care is a wonderful approach to working with all people, but Pacific need to be given a fair chance to get things right for themselves first.” 

Staged at Auckland’s Eden Park, 13 winners were announced across seven awards categories during the sixth edition of the SunPix Awards, which celebrate Pacific peoples’ contribution in Aotearoa annually.  

This year’s event shone the spotlight on Pacific heroes making a significant contribution in their community through the COVID-19 pandemic.