Creating safe spaces in our vaka

E fofo e le alamea le alamea: In our problems lie our solutions." 

Le Va is honoured to support influential next generation Pasifika health leaders through the Le Tautua Matau Mana Moana (or M3) Pasifika leadership programme. 

It was important for the M3 leaders to attend #GPS2016 and closely listen, with hearts and minds, to the issues raised by and about Pasifika youth. They were asked to analyse the evidence, innovations, creativity, key messages and special moments of the conference, and present their observations to the leadership programme.

The leaders recognised that the existing landscape is of negative statistics, disproportionate poverty, problems, addictions, struggles and violence – and that this is the overriding narrative for Pasifika. This needs to change. The landscape of disadvantage contains our challenges and the problems, but it also holds our calling.  

Holding hope in the presence of truth 

The leaders talked about responding to the challenges with passion, creativity, purpose and promise. They spoke of responses with heart and soul, rather than cold, hard problems. They chose to hold hope in the presence of truth. They looked to success stories amongst the adversity, particularly where our talent has thrived: through creativity, sports and high-profile role models. They looked to spaces where Pasifika people and the community have been empowered. They reflected a theme of the conference as refusing to be stuck in the negative, and rejected viewing “our people” as “the problem”.

Many M3 leaders recognised that presenters and participants at the conference carried the legacy of many precious resources.  Pasifika peoples are people of faith, who as a collective, overwhelmingly continue to honour spirituality in our lives. As Pasifika people, we know how to love, and act with love. We know how to be family.  

As a result of their observations, some talked about moving away from being leaders to being stewards of Pasifika leadership. This is a bold leap, a recognition that the onus is on us to not simply build the bridges, but to ensure that we maintain and enable future leaders to create new ways to bring Pasifika together. To break through the fear, grow in confidence and where necessary, get explicit permission to lead.  

The value of culture and having faith

There is an understanding that this means beginning with ourselves. Fulfilling our roles, living up to the standards set, being of service and having humility at the same time as taking responsibility for mentoring, leading and having the courage to act on what we know.  

There is an understanding that this may mean going from being the ones who weren’t listened to, to being the ones who can listen.  Leading a dialogue of difference that acknowledges and defends our diversity but is based on inclusion and acceptance. This means operating in ways that allow people to feel heard in their own right, in their own voice. This requires authenticity, vulnerability, trusting in ourselves, each other, the value of our culture and having faith.

There is recognition that we must have courage to consciously influence others in positive ways, to dare to mobilise the critical mass, to move hearts and souls so that the collective dream feels within reach. This means starting with our own families, children and communities. It also means we need to extend beyond the sectors we work in to grow the fleet of allies, so that non-Pasifika and Pasifika are all travelling with purpose towards the same positive endpoints. 

We need to make a vigilant effort to create safe spaces in our vaka and in our wake, to be open-minded, open-hearted and wholly accepting."

Next generation leadership 

To do this, we need to involve everyone – from our youngest to our elders. We need to make a vigilant effort to create safe spaces in our vaka and in our wake, to be open-minded, open-hearted and wholly accepting. Drawing on ancient Pacific navigator wisdom, not only do we need to ensure everyone is in the boat, but we must also tow and row – each other if need be.  This means doing our own humble part with all of our might, as well as growing and assisting others.  

Next-generation leadership means knowing when to give over leadership but with support, not just expectation and assumptions. M3 leaders talked about supporting future leaders. To meet the needs of the future, the present must be driven by co-design, collaboration, cooperation and collective vision. 

With creativity, passion, purpose and courage, we are in the position to realise our calling, not just as individuals, not just as individual services, but as a flotilla or fleet, unified and moving towards a future of fellowship, contentment and flourishing. We can tie our outriggers together on this journey to share breath and resources, touch base and break bread with each other.  

The terrain and journey will be tough. We cannot be driven by expecting any acknowledgement. There will be politics. It will be hard. We do often have to grit it out and accept that true accountability is so very often a position of vulnerability.  

The scent of flowers as yet unseen 

While there are many challenges, all of our eyes are fixed on the same 'promised land' – the scent of flowers as yet unseen. We dream of a place of full health, shared wealth, strengthened families, positive parenting and close relationships where our young people have the skills to find and develop their own meaningful solutions and make good decisions about their lives. We do not only dream of this place, we actively navigate our way towards it, knowing we come from a people of multiple migrations who have followed their guiding stars and bravely traversed the largest ocean in the world. And we know we are not alone.

The Le Tautua Matau Mana Moana leaders and facilitators are grateful to the Youth Action Komiti who co-designed GPS and helped select the fantastic speakers, specialists and contributors to the event. It provided a valuable opportunity to come together and reflect about the roles and responsibilities of next generation leadership.

About the author
Ellyna is Le Va’s Executive Assistant to the CE and manages day-to-day operations. She has experience in various areas such as finance, sales, and administration.

More about Ellyna Fidow