New Years Honor for 14 Pacific People

I’ll kick-off the new year by sharing news from Radio New Zealand about fourteen Pacific people who have been named on the New Year Honors List for their services to New Zealand’s community. They have been honored for their work in the arts, sports, health, the LGBTIQ community and for women.

Mele Wendt, Salamina Leolahi, Karlo Mila, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Derek Teariki and Pauli Ma’afu have been recognized for their work in New Zealand’s Pacific community. Reverends Penetekoso Togiatama and Tauinaola Tofilau were also named for their community work. Vaine Arai Areora and Luisa Avaiki are on the list for services to sport, while Tukua Turia and Tanu Gago are there for the arts. Mr Gago is also recognized for his work with the LGBTIQ community. Arbutus Mitikulena and Vic Tamati have been recognized for their work in health and anti-violence campaigns. Lieutenant Commander Joseph Tupuola Peterson has been awarded the Distinguished Service Decoration.

A prominent Pacific researcher and poet is one of fourteen Pacific New Zealanders recognized in the country’s New Year Honors awards. Dr Karlo Mila, who’s of Tongan, Samoan and Palagi descent, is currently the head of a leadership program for mid-career Pacific leaders. But for more than twenty years, she’s worked to research cultural identities of Pacific islanders and second-generation Pacific New Zealanders.

Dr Mila, who has become a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit said that her research has constantly shown that cultural identity is critical. “Pacific high school students that were proud of their own identities were 50 percent less likely to have made a suicide attempt in the previous year. And those who felt accepted by their own culture and by others just generally were 70 percent less likely to make a suicide attempt,” she said.


In the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands News ran an article written by Rashneel Kumar about how 74 year-old heritage artist, Tukua Turia was surprised that she made the New Year Honor list.

Tukua Turia, who is an expert in Cook Island traditional quilt-making art Tivaivai, and volunteer worker Vaine Arai Areora have been made Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

She has designed hundreds of tivaivai over the years and her work has been collected by Te Papa Tongarewa, where she has also provided pieces for ANZAC ceremonies. “She is routinely commissioned by the Cook Islands Consulate to create gifts for dignitaries and has gifted some of her works to New Zealand government officials,” said the New Zealand Cabinet Office in a statement.

“She is a member of the Kuki ‘Airani Creative Mamas, a group of Cook Island women based in Mangere who gather for weekly activities, including tivaivai workshops. Her expertise is increasingly rare, and while she runs workshops, she is one of only a few in the group who can set up a tivaivai.”

Turia led Kuki ‘Airani Creative Mamas in a collaboration with fashion designer Karen Walker on a dress combining Cook Island tivaivai and modern dress, which was displayed at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange exhibition at Buckingham Palace and public exhibitions in London this year.


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