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Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said the aim was to “revitalise, grow and strengthen the value of Pacific languages, culture and identities” in Aotearoa.
According to the comparisons from the 2013 census to the 2018 census, the proportion of speakers of Pacific languages had declined across the board, and for some languages such as those of the realm countries, (Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau), and small island groups, the decline was even more significant.
Aupito said Pacific languages, cultures and identity were essential to the health, well-being and lifetime success of our Pacific peoples and their communities. “The strength and resilience of Pacific Aotearoa is not only vital to their own prosperity, but integral to the prosperity of all New Zealanders, and is particularly important in helping Pacific people during our economic recovery and rebuilding efforts,” he said.
The minister said the loss of language was the loss of history, disconnecting past with the present. “It is a loss of self-identity and strength that not only hinders Pacific peoples’ deep connection with their heritage, but it also limits the cultural diversity and strength of New Zealand and effects the growth of the Pacific economy of Aotearoa.”
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples was looking for eligible Pacific language providers and groups who could deliver a range of initiatives. In the past, this included the Nafanua Communication and Culture Samoan Comic Series; where funding was provided to Nafanuatele Mafaufau and supported her in creating her online comic “O le Aiga Samoa: The Samoa Family”. The comics were written in Samoan and translated into English, and provided an insight into the Samoan home and what customs and cultural practices could be seen on an everyday basis.
There was also the Pasefika Kids in Books Initiative, where Sandra Fatu Nu’u wrote children’s books in Samoan, and Rugby Superheroes Vol. 1, the Flying Fijians written by Ryan Gounder who created bilingual books depicting Pacific Rugby heroes.
With funding provided by the Ministry, Gounder was able to complete the first book in the series written in both English and Fijian which highlights ‘The Flying Fijians’. Ryan hopes to continue writing these books and is currently working towards Volume 2 in his series depicting the Manu Samoa squad.
The 2019 Wellbeing Budget provided $NZ20 million over four years towards the support of Pacific languages and cultures, funding a range of initiatives critical to reversing the decline in the uptake and use of Pacific languages. “It was our communities that identified Pacific languages as the key to their wellbeing. By supporting the languages of our Pacific peoples, we enable them to lead more confident, resilient, prosperous lives,” Sio said.