Written by Tuiloma Gayle Lafaiali’i, Director, Pasifika Education Centre
This Retreat Four (Va Tagata) of The Mana Moana Experience is where things shifted for me personally. At this retreat, I realised that my well-meaning, often private yet genuine, heartfelt support for political ideology needed to step up into outward, political participation and that my voice was critical and could influence change. No longer enough to be a keyboard warrior and adding my Facebook or Instagram posts from the sideline, but rather a call to be physically present and politically active.
It’s not that I haven’t been passionate about things: I’ve just assumed there are already people out there ‘doing it’. Therefore, it was enough on my part to be a passive supporter, encouraging them with words and prayers for success.
Va Tagata is about the realm of the interpersonal, the exploration of human relationships and our relationship to politics and power.
How timely then, when Va Tagata coincided with the occupation at Ihumātao that was so publicly activated on the morning of 25 July 2019. We had a full agenda planned for the day, but how could we in good conscience sit and study the theory of indigenous leadership from the perspective of people, politics and power when literally on our door-step just 12kms from our venue, this was being played out in what I’m confident will become one of the most defining moments for New Zealand.
What interested me was the talanoa that ensued for most of the day about what our Pacific | Mana Moana | Human response should be to the call for support at Ihumātao. The emerging realisation that the situation was incredibly complex and that, as senior leaders in the community and in our work places, we needed to be cognisant of any potential negative impacts because some of us are government workers and/or funded by government: Was there any potential backlash that might arise from making a public stance? What were we each individually prepared to accept if there was? The diversity of experience (or the lack of) with tangata whenua and Treaty issues, as well as their ongoing battle with the Crown for redress, was evident across our group. The ongoing occupation at Ihumātao gives us a lived-experience and opportunity to put into practice everything we’ve learnt to date on Mana Moana.
In my youth growing up in Wellington, I was politically active in student politics and Māori issues. Va Tagata has revived my passion and personal responsibility to lead.
Did Gayle’s story resonate with you? This is one of many purposeful and profound experiences on The Mana Moana Experience. Are you a mid-career Pasifika leader who cares for the future of New Zealand? Do you know someone who is? Then apply for our 2020 Programme - we’re accepting applications now!