Incorporating Pacific values to create change

posted: 8:00 pm - 28th February 2021
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(Picture caption: L-R: Constable Mataiasi Tongotea, InWork Programme Facilitator Bob Tiatia and Constable Pat Papali’I are working together to transform the lives of disaffected and vulnerable Pacific people.) 

When you do the same thing over and over, you can expect the same results.  

Seeing the need for change and incorporating Pacific values into its work, the Avondale Police team is adapting the way it operates, all while simultaneously creating positive impact on the community.  

Auckland City District Constables Mataiasi Tongotea and Pat Leitufiaotua Papali’i are part of the Tautua (Pasifika) Prevention team based at Avondale Police Station.  

Following the implementation of the New Zealand Police Pacific Strategy, O le taeo fou (the dawn of a new day), Avondale Area Commander Inspector Grant Teztlaff saw an opportunity to create a team, focused on driving the Pacific Strategy.  

The Tautua Prevention team’s primary role is to work and collaborate with government agencies, NGO’s, churches, schools and Pacific providers to build effective partnerships to prevent offending and victimisation in Pacific communities and to continue to build their trust and confidence in the Police, Pat explains.  

“Recently, Tautua has joined forces with Tupu Aotearoa Service Provider InWork, working together to support and transform the lives of disaffected and vulnerable Pacific people, reduce offending and victimisation and to strengthen trust and confidence in all,” Pat says.  

A New Zealand-born Samoan, Pat has been with the New Zealand Police for 12 years working in various work groups from Frontline, Neighbourhood Police Teams, Road Policing, Team Policing, Family Harm and as a Pacific Liaison Officer for Auckland City District. 

Mataiasi (Matai) is Tongan – born and raised, and after moving to New Zealand in 2010, he joined the Police five years later where he says he is honoured to work serving Pacific communities.  

Matai says his and Pat’s respective cultural backgrounds and religious upbringing is reflective of the Pacific communities they serve.  

“It is extremely beneficial when engaging with our Pacific people,” Matai adds.  

The pair started their roles as Tautua Prevention Officers last year just before the COVID-19 lockdown in late March.  

“At that time, due to COVID-19, we were restricted in what we were able to do to reach out to our vulnerable Pacific communities.  

“However, we were privileged to work alongside organisations such as The Village Trust and Brown Butterbean Motivation (BBM) delivering food parcels to the families that needed it most.  

“Since then, we have been working with other organisations such as Tupu Aotearoa and InWork, The Fono, TROW Group, and Auckland Transport to provide employment and driver licence training to our Pacific people who have come through the justice system or just come to the attention of police for minor offences.”

Tautua also works with Pacific churches to provide insight and education around family harm, road safety, alcohol, mental health, youth crime, gangs and drugs. 

“Our messages and mindset are prevention focused,” Pat says.  

He adds the Tautua team has established a good working relationship with InWork, having referred several Pacific people, who have gone through the Police and Court processes, to InWork.  

“Our partnership with InWork has resulted in great outcomes providing employment for our people as well as driver licences, access to tertiary courses, and obtaining formal identification.”  

Ultimately, Pat says the Police’s partnership with InWork is to provide better outcomes for those they are referring and working with.  

“For many of them, the predicament they find themselves in can be attributed to factors such as addiction, unemployment, relationship issues, financial pressures and so on.  

“If we can work with organisations such as InWork to remove some of these negative factors, then hopefully it will transform their lives and the lives of their families for the better.”  

The team is already seeing results. 

“We had a Pacific male who came to our attention via the court system. He was unemployed, lacked any sense of purpose, had a negative view of the Police, but was wanting to work to support his family," Pat and Matai share. 

“We were able to engage and build a good rapport with him which led to us gaining his trust and confidence and as a result, we were able to convince him to register with InWork and utilise the Tupu Aotearoa programme.”  

InWork supported the man by helping him to create a CV which led to full-time employment and he is now in the process of obtaining his Restricted Driver’s Licence which will also help him with other employment opportunities. 

Pat says the team has had several similar positive success stories and look forward to many more.  

At the heart of Tautua’s work, is a strong sense of serving the community, as Pat says, “O le ala I le pule o le tautau - the pathway to leadership is through service”. 

See more about Tupu Aotearoa.