Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners

2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) -Manatu 'Ofa Mei Vailahi Fia

Manatu this year graduated from The University of Otago with a Bachelor of Science with Honours. The 22-year-old (Tongan) used the prize money to cover travel costs to the Pacific for post-graduate research into mental illness in the Pacific community. Completing this degree has been very rewarding for Manatu who originally studied anatomy and social biology, but switched her focus to psychology after realising just how under-represented Pasifika people were in the field. "I've found a field that I'm definitely needed in - we need more Pacific people in the clinical psychology field. It was just amazing how I stumbled upon it."


2013 Leadership Award - (sponsored by University of Auckland) - Ann-Helen Rasmussen

Ann-Helen, 25, (Samoan) has now completed her undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Education and her postgraduate (Honours).  She aspires to do her Masters someday. She has used the award money to help fund her year of post-graduate study. Ann-Helen’s dissertation topic looked at how teacher’s beliefs influence their pedagogy or, in other words, how they teach. Part of the Steering Committe for the Young, Free & Pasfikiayouth rally with aims to empower young Pasifika women from the Auckland region, she is also working with Affirming Works in Manukau. In this she helps run youth, mentoring and educational services to help encourage Pacific people finish education. Her passion continues to be examining factors that cause Pasifika under achievement in New Zealand and the Pacific. Ann-Helen continues to be an example of success and someone to make a difference.


2013 Creativity Award – (sponsored by Weta Workshop) -Aaron Unasa

Since winning the award, 23-year-old Aaron, (Samoan and Cook Island Maori heritage) has focused on his internship at Weta Workshop mostly working in the mould-making department. Aaron says the award has helped him in receiving an internship at Weta Workshop and he feels blessed to have a career in a field he’s interested in. “It’s like making the All Blacks, it’s huge.” The internship has put in him a position to learn different skills, techniques and new materials in a very competitive environment. Furthermore, he says the award has given him an opportunity to network and learn from people who have a lot of experience in the film industry, and who have worked alongside big names e.g. James Cameron and Peter Jackson – to name a few! Winning he says is one of the biggest achievements of his life. Aaron says he sacrificed a lot of time for his studies, setting goals that paid off when he won.  The award was not only an achievement for himself but his family too. “The awards offer great opportunities and applicants should take it seriously as it can help put them on to a career path they are passionate about.” Aaron says the awards prove hard work pays off. “I feel lucky every day to do something I love”.


2013 Inspiration Award (sponsored by Cogita) – Edmond Fehoko

Currently working as a Learning Advisor at AUT University North Shore campus, Edmund, 24, (Tongan) has now completed his Masters in Social Sciences. His research explored how the cultural practice of kava-drinking or the faikava can become an identity marker for New Zealand-born Tongan males in Auckland. A number of publications with New Zealand Sociology have published his findings and he has presented in conferences. The benefits from receiving his award have been very overwhelming he says. It has provided Edmund opportunities to not only travel but to establish networks from around the world. The award money allowed him to travel to Oxford University to present in the8th Global Conference on Multiculturalism, Conflict and Belonging which was a “dream come true” and an AUT first. Although he was proud of his achievement, Edmund says making his parents and grandmother proud was the best part of it. “It was confirmation that I had made the dreams of migrant parents from the Kingdom of Tonga come true.” Edmund is now looking to pursue his studies to obtain a PhD. He is very interested in coming down to see the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards 2015 to watch the next Pacific stars in the making. “Strive, seek and succeed in your journey,” to quote Winston Churchill he says –“never give up!”


2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) Elizabeth Tu’u Moli

Elizabeth, 25, (Samoan) is working at the Pacific Island Community Trust in Tauranga and is grateful for the opportunity to develop professionally there. Winning has meant a lot for her community in Bay of Plenty (BOP) she says. “It signaled there are Pacific people in other areas of New Zealand outside the main centres, and that we are working hard to support our people in BOP”. She was privileged to receive a scholarship to help towards her law studies and says the award has given her a greater confidence in her purpose. Elizabeth has become deeply involved in volunteer and community work. The award she says also helped her acknowledge those who have been crucial to her development particularly her Church, family and workplace. She encourages all to go for these awards and that applicants are not going into this alone - they have the support from their family and community behind them all the way. “Be brave and don’t be shy to put yourself out there. Remember, you’re not doing this alone, you’re doing it with your family and community behind you, so for it!”


2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) Mary Tiumalu

23-year-old Mary (Samoan) has now completed her law and arts degree at the University of Auckland. She has used the awards money to spend six weeks in the Pacific in Fiji working with Save the Children which she has just returned from. Working in their policy team to raise awareness and look at issues such as child trafficking and domestic violence, Mary says she was inspired. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to go overseas to help make a difference and the award money not only gave me an opportunity but a purpose.” This purpose is to continue to work with Pacific communities abroad and locally and she is keen to land a role at the Ministry of Education now that she has graduated. “I want to continue to raise awareness of how education can help and empower our people.” Mary credits her family for giving her the support and determination to back this dream and says the award has paved the way for her to do what she loves. “Spending six weeks in the Pacific confirmed for me that I want to help our community and encouraged me to continue doing so.” “As long as you’re enjoying what you do then that is success in itself.”


2013 Vodafone NZ Foundation Mobiles 4 Good Award – Reina Vaai

Reina 25, (Samoan) has been admitted to the bar in April and graduated from her law degree in May this year. She is currently keeping busy working at a law firm in Auckland - while getting ready to take the social media world by storm! Reina is soon to launch her own social media page Truth She Wrote which will feature YouTube clips each week of Girl Bosses who brunch. “The aim is to profile an inspiring Pacific woman each week and I will be taking them out to coffee and talking to them about their hopes and dreams. “The first lady I’m speaking with is the first ever Pacific sociology lecturer at Auckland University who is a Mum and in her twenties. These are the stories I want to tell.” The award she says has been the biggest confidence boost as it reinforced there were no limitations. “To be awarded for my creative outlet gave me the courage to pursue all my passions.“We are told that once you’re a lawyer that is your job but it doesn’t have to be -I want to prove to our Pacific people that they can also pursue all their talents as we have many of them. “ Winning Reina says, solidified this for her and taught her that it was possible to dream. She encourages all our Pacific youth to get on board to apply for the 2015 awards so that they can live out their own dreams.