Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners 2016

Air New Zealand Leadership and Inspiration Award
Josiah Tavita Tualamali’i, 21, Christchurch

Josiah is a Samoan New Zealander who has worked to support, develop and mentor Pacific young people in Christchurch and across New Zealand for the last six years. He also provides strategic advice to organisations, councils, MPs and government agencies to help enable Pacific young people to thrive and succeed socially, in their education, wellbeing, civic participation and everyday life. Josiah is studying History of Political Science and Law at the University of Canterbury.

An active member of Christchurch’s Pacific community, Josiah helped establish the PYLAT Council - Pacific Youth Leadership And Transformation. As a founding member, Josiah was appointed to the position of vice Treasurer, then Treasurer and is now Chair of the PYLAT Council Charitable Trust. Josiah has played a key role in bringing together different communities across the city.

He also led the development of iSPEAK, a bi-monthly forum for Pacific youth to discuss issues affecting people in New Zealand, such as the Christchurch recovery and living wage campaign. Josiah coordinates feedback from these fono to submit to the relevant Minister. This initiative is helping young Pacific people participate in the political process.

Josiah sits on a number of Boards, advocating for Pacific youth and ensuring young people’s ideas and perspectives are considered.

He helped develop the University of Canterbury’s Pacific strategy and has worked with the university’s Pacific Development Team to deliver their first year mentoring programme, mentoring four students this year. He has also served on the Samoan Students’ Association.

Josiah has overcome personal obstacles to embrace his Pacific identity, and hopes to forge a career as an academic in political science and history. The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award prize – a visit to Geneva to witness leadership on the global stage – will provide Josiah with an invaluable experience in diplomacy and he hopes to share his story to inspire others on his return.

“I want to continue the work I am doing at Uni, in Christchurch and NZ to make sure our community is well represented in positions of decision making and that the voices of our community are being listened to and acted on,” he says.

Ako Aotearoa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Award
James Penfold, 20, Dannemora, Auckland

James is a New Zealand born Tongan and a second year medical student. An A grade student, James gained entry into medical school as part of MAPAS, the Maori and Pacific Admission Scheme which provides support throughout the admissions process and ongoing during studies.

In addition to studying, James is tutoring Maori and Pacific students at the University of Auckland. In the first semester he was a part of the Tuākana tutoring staff teaching Biology of Biomedical Science to classes of around 30-50 students. Tuākana offers an opportunity to provide whakawhanaungatanga and group learning to both Maori and Pacific students. In the second semester he worked for MAPAS, tutoring many of the first year students aiming to gain admission into the medical programme. He was teaching Medical Science with classes of about 40-50 first year students.

In addition to becoming a doctor, James wants to get involved with organisations that address Pacific and Maori community issues such as nutrition and re-employment after incarceration. He is currently working with colleagues on an initiative to address the barriers of Hauora, involving mala’e and marae to determine how best to provide services in an accessible, acceptable and appropriate manner.

James says: “I would love to be able to give back to the Pacific community. Being part of MAPAS has opened my eyes to the disparities and inequalities present in New Zealand. I feel as though being a Pacific doctor in the health work force will help me to address some of these disparities.

“Additionally, I hope to be able to go back to Tonga and do some health work there to improve their health status and also offer opportunities to further health promotion and development."

Government Communications Security Bureau  (GCSB) Sub-Category STEM Award
Roneima Teumohenga, 18, Palmerston North

Roneima is New Zealand-born with Samoan, Tokelauan and Tongan heritage. She is in her final year at Palmerston North Girls High School and studying Physics, Biology, Chemistry, English and Calculus.

Roneima was born with permanent hearing loss, with only 80% hearing in both ears and she will wear hearing aids for the rest of her life. Roneima worked hard at school and was awarded the Top Scholar Academic Cup at Cornerstone Christian School in 2011. Hearing loss affects balance amongst other things, however this did not stop her from representing the Manawatu Region in athletics and netball. “I have never and will never use my hearing loss as an excuse or barrier to stop me from working towards the goals I set for myself, in fact it is what drives me to give everything I do 100%” she says.

Roneima started an informal study group with a few Pasifika students from her school on weekends and during school holidays, resulting in increased confidence and improved grades for participants. She led a group of mentors working alongside Pasifika primary school children at the Cornerstone Christian School after school literacy programme, and has taken part in the Lower North Island Inter School Pasifika Fusion from 2012-2016 in essay writing, poetry, debate and science categories.
At her current high school, Roneima set up an after school tutoring/mentoring programme for students whose parents are not in a financial position to pay for subject tutors, called Excel. School management and deans have committed to ensuring Excel is supported and promoted to be part of the normal school day every Fridays beyond 2016. She is also student Head of Humanities and Science, leading a group of 13 prefects responsible for promoting a positive learning environment where good work ethics and striving for excellence is normalised and supported.

She is a high academic achiever and represented her school at the Rotary Science and Technology forum in Auckland January 2016. She has twice served as a Youth Judge for the Manawatu Fonterra Science Fair as well as being awarded the High Distinction prize for her Lichen research project. She is a long serving member of the Mathematics committee at school, represented them at Mathex competitions as well as being a Mathematics tutor for the school’s Maths zone.

“I have always had a passion for science and how it can be used to improve the health and wellbeing of Pasifika people. “

“Research shows a significant increase in the number of Pasifika people with head and brain injuries in New Zealand and abroad. My future goal is to become a Neurosurgeon to work alongside Pasifika families and communities in New Zealand and in the Pacific.”

BNZ Commercial & Corporate Award
Manako Nemaia, 20, Otahuhu

Despite having no accounting background, in 2014 Manako secured a place at Auckland University of Technology through a scholarship, and she will be graduating with a business degree majoring in accounting.

She has demonstrated leadership through mentoring, focusing on first year Pasifika students. Earlier this year she mentored 30 young high school leavers with aspirations to obtain higher education and 90% of them went on to begin their studies.

Manako aims to become a qualified accountant through a selected professional body, where she can assist in building and growing local New Zealand businesses with her accounting experience. Manako says: “I have an interest in building my own business and this award will allow me to experience another aspect of business adding to my skills, knowledge, and the way I view our changing world. I have always wanted to work under the direction of a mentor because I know that such a relationship will be invaluable and instrumental in my present and future endeavours.”

Manako has always been involved in the Niuean community from a young age, and she is involved in the Niue Youth Network, a body of young Niue people who are proud of their culture and passionate about the language. She helps the group organise events for our young people to connect with their Niue roots and celebrate their culture.

Deloitte Business & Enterprise Award
Sanita Betham, 18, Wellington

Sanita is of Samoan/New Zealand descent and is a student at Victoria University in Wellington. Sanita is hardworking and filled with drive and passion. She is proud of her cultural heritage. She is studying a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Computer Science (conjoint with a Bachelor of Commerce) at Victoria University of Wellington and 2017 will be her second year of study.

Academically, she is a high achiever, completing four computer science related courses at tertiary level this year, and she received the Victoria Achiever Scholarship for 2015. Sanita manages to balance this with work, church and family commitments, as well as dance – her crew (Projekt Brownies) were placed first in Auckland Street Dance NZ regionals and fourth in the Street Dance NZ Nationals this year.
Throughout her time at Wellington Girls College, Sanita was involved in the Pacific community, including participation in the Polynesian Group and her commitment to the Te-Ropu-a-Kiwa committee, which dealt with matters concerning Pacific and Maori students and culture. Sanita tutored two younger Pacific students in Science, Maths and English. Inspired by Te Ropu Awhina, the on campus whanau at Victoria University for Pacific and Maori students pursuing science, engineering, and architecture and design degrees, Sanita hopes one day to become a mentor and support university students.

After graduating, Sanita hopes to apply and expand her skills at a technology company and become involved with a start-up that gives back to and creates opportunities within the Pacific community and/or other minority communities.
Sanita says this Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award prize is invaluable for helping her get practical experience while studying.

Creative New Zealand Arts & Creativity Award
Jahra Wasasala, 24, Blockhouse Bay, Auckland
Jahra 'Rager' Wasasala, 24, from Blockhouse Bay, Auckland is a New Zealand born Fijian and Pacific Artist. Her mediums are contemporary dance, choreography and spoken word.

Jahra has represented New Zealand’s Pacific community in the Festival of the Pacific Arts held in Guahan (Guam), toured a collaborative dance work in Australia in Next Wave Festival with Indigenous dance maker Amrita Hepi, performed in one of the headline shows 'Taumata' in Tempo Dance Festival as well as recently premiering her solo dance/poetry work 'bloo/d/runk' at the Sophiensaele Theatre in Berlin, Germany.

She has developed a following for her dance and poetry work online, and her experience as a performer and facilitator has demonstrated that young people and students relate and respond to her leadership, vision, passion, struggle and the development of her creative work because of how it links to their own journeys.
“As a mixed-race Pacific artist, I live by example of how young people can reconnect with their culture when they have been disconnected - particularly around the 'Afakasi' conversation. It is incredibly important to me to find accessible ways to encourage young people to connect with their Pacific heritage in their own unique way, and to support them in using that knowledge to inform our current world,” she says.

Jahra has also been a mentor and facilitator for Rising Voice Youth Poetry Slam over the past two years, supporting 12 young emerging poets through writing and performance workshops over two months, leading to a performance outcome and a public poetry slam competition. Poetry has also provided Jahra with the opportunity to mentor and facilitate young Pacific poets overseas at the annual 'Pacific Tongues Poetry Festival' in 2015. Jahra is a tutor in the Ia Manuia Open Dance community classes, where she provides exceptional physical dance training to the Pacific community, creates safe spaces for them to physically express themselves and their voices.

She is a founding member of the Youth Advisory Group at the Auckland Museum and also sits as a Youth Advisor on the Pacific Advisory Group, which has given her the opportunity to learn about governance and Pacific representation in institutions.
Jahra is dedicated to increasing the representation of Pacific women in the arts and is pushing to create more spaces for Pacific women to be visible.

“As an active mentor in the Pacific Art/Dance/Poetry community, I hold a genuine passion for enabling, facilitating and supporting the growth and development of young people, Pacific people, and refugee youth, through initiatives like Ia Manuia, Rising Voices and Mixit Refugee Arts. For the past few years I have extensively worked alongside many young people to help them discover and grow their own potential and express their own stories,” she says.

The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award will enable Jahra to take part in international indigenous and mainstream contemporary dance, choreographic-based and creative writing-based residencies overseas. She is specifically looking at residencies in Europe and Canada, which both have residencies that have a strong emphasis on indigenous issues and choreographic mentoring. The Award will also help Jahra to tour, produce and choreographically develop her multi-disciplinary contemporary dance and poetry solo work 'bloo/d/runk'.

Auckland Council Community Star Award
Emma Takataka, 21, Otara

A New Zealand-born Tongan, Emma is a third year law and arts student. The eldest of nine children, Emma’s values stem from the humility, empathy and love displayed to her by her parents. She has fought stereotypes throughout her life, and has overcome some of the negative experiences she had whilst growing up to become a source of strength to the people she works with.

Emma is a volunteer youth leader in the Tangaroa Ward in Tamaki Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, volunteering at least three hours a week to support young girls aged 12-18 realise their true potential, as well as help run community activities. She is committed to fulfilling her duties and responsibilities to the highest standards.

She is also a member of the Otara Papatoetoe Youth Council Advisory, which works with local government leaders in the area. This gives her the opportunity to be a voice for the vulnerable and unheard, representing the voice of youth in Otara and Papatoetoe. She says of her volunteer work: “It is a privilege to have that responsibility and hope to help in developing projects for the community to grow.” 

Emma is an actively engaged member of the University of Auckland’s Pacific Island Law Student Association and is involved in the Malosi Project (the Movement for Action and Law to Overcome Social Injustices), which motivates young people to share discourse on legal and policy issues Pacific people face, educate Pacific people on their rights and advocates for Pacific people in legal and political spheres. Emma was recently elected her law school’s Cultural Officer for 2017. She has been mentoring disadvantaged high-school aged Pacific and Maori youth with the Great Potentials Foundation. Emma is also an entrepreneur, establishing a small health and beauty business venture with her sister in hopes of promoting self-confidence in others.

“I aspire in the future to work within institutions which make the central decisions to policy and legal issues which impact Pacific people …The award of doing a paid internship with Auckland Council would give me the relevant experience and exposure to an organisation which contributes significantly to my community on daily basis. From this experience I could apply such knowledge broadly in all aspects of my life but specifically when working with Otara and Papatoetoe Youth Advisory Council.”

New Zealand Institute of Sport (NZIS) Sports & Fitness Award
Mafutaga Tau, 18, Porirua

Samoan New Zealander Mafutaga has excelled in sports, with multiple shields, titles and caps including the Neville Shield, McEvedy Athlete, McEvedy Champion, McEvedy Champion 100m and running in U16 grade. He was a record holder of 11.48 seconds for U14s.

Mafutaga was also McEvedy Champion Relay (2012-2016), second 15 rugby in 2015 with a captaincy in 2016, and first 15 rugby training squad with three games in 2016.
At his school, St Patrick's College, he has played as Sevens Condors Qualifier Champions (2016), and Sevens Condors National Squad (2016). He is also the National Champion U16 Relay (2013), placed in the top eight at the U16 100m in 2013. He has also played in the National Tag Champion Squad (2015) and was National Tag Runners Up (2016).

Despite being ‘injury prone’, Mafutaga always trains hard, eating healthy and ensuring he is ready to perform after a recover process.

Mafutaga is heavily involved in his church and its youth group, and he has also worked at the Cannons Creek Opportunity Centre holiday programme for four years, working with a diverse range of kids to help them enjoy their holidays, but also act as a role model and support them.

“My future aspirations are to be a professional sports athlete in either rugby, athletics or rugby sevens or a Personal Trainer. I want to be a leader and an influence for the younger generation and show that it doesn't take raw talent and the best sidestep, or the fancy passes and big hits to make it professionally. It takes one heart and a whole lot of hard work.”

New Zealand Institute of Sport (NZIS) Sports & Fitness Award
Ayesha Leti-I'iga, 17, Porirua
Ayesha is a New Zealand-born Samoan sportswoman who is willing to work hard to better her future and inspire those around her.

She says: “I am a 17 year old Samoan girl who grew up with my grandparents after losing my beloved mother when I was just 10 years old. Instead of going downhill I have chosen to use this to push me even harder in school and especially in sports. Every game I play I write my mother’s name on my wrist as it helps fuel me. Every time I am running I know she is always there running with me and everything I do is for her, my grandparents, family and friends.”

Ayesha’s achievements in sport include playing in the Wellington Pride Women’s Team, New Zealand Sevens programme, Black Ferns wider squad, the Pathway to Podium programme and New Zealand Sevens Series.

She was also nominated for the Wellington Federation Rugby Union (WFRU) Women’s Rugby Player of the Year and WFRU’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, Wellington College Sport nomination for Girls Rugby and she won the Wellington Pride Women’s Back of the Year. Ayesha has captained the Porirua College 1st XV Rugby Girls and the Porirua College Sevens team and was awarded Senior Sportswoman of Porirua College.

Ayesha is also active in the community, playing in her local Touch Rugby and Flag tournament at Cannons Creek Park. She has coached the Under 15s Porirua College team and is a student leader at the Breakaway Holiday Programme for 11-17 year olds run by the Porirua Whanau Centre.

Ayesha has had to contend with challenging stereotypes about Samoan girls and sport, but has drawn strength from her rugby coaches and team mates. She even won over her grandparents, who had initially opposed her playing ruby, but after seeing her perform on the field always cheer her on from the sidelines.

Ayesha says: “Winning this award will help lessen the burdens financially on my grandparents, family and myself. I don't come from a rich family. Having this award will be a great recognition of the work everyone has done to help assist me in achieving what has been achieved thus far, and what yet is to come.”

In the future, Ayesha says she would love to be a Black Fern and in the New Zealand Women's Sevens team. She also has dreams of becoming a Physiotherapist.