Time to march – Pasifika angry, frustrated and still pushed aside, group says

Te Waha Nui report by Jess Perenara
Auckland’s Pasifika community is angry and tired of being taken for granted and will take action this weekend. Advance Pasifika, a movement of Pasifika communities, is planning a march in central Auckland this weekend with messages about wanting a better future.

Reverend Uesifili Unasa, chairman of the Pasifika People’s Advisory Council, says the march is about giving a focus to Pacific issues. The march on Saturday will look to address issues such as affordable housing, better education, quality healthcare and jobs.

Youth consultant Efeso Collins says the march is a result of a growing sense of anger and displacement in the Pasifika community.

“There is a growing frustration our vote has been taken for granted. We are still getting poorer, we are well below the national average when it comes to wages and we top youth unemployment rates.”

Collins says people are anxious about what the future holds. He says there has not been any shift in the statistics in the last 40 years and people are worried their children will not have a decent future.

Harry Toleafoa, a law student at the University of Auckland, says he will march because he wants people to realise that the situation Pasifika people are in is not acceptable.

“The system is failing us and we need to march for change.”

Collins says a lot of the issues are problems that affect the general population. However, they go deeper in the Pasifika community because they have become entrenched.

“There is a general sense within the community [that] people are looking for a way to express their frustration. They are tired of being pushed to the side.”

Collins says they have several outcomes they hope to achieve. One of them is the establishment of a Pasifika Leaders Forum.

“The Pasifika People’s Advisory Council [which advises Auckland Council] ends in 2013 and after that, the council have no legal obligation to make sure the Pasifika voice is heard,” says Collins.

He says a leader’s forum would mean local bodies could still seek advice on Pasifika issues. They would also like to see a dedicated cabinet portfolio for Pasifika people set up.

“No-one seems to think past three years in the world of government but this is about thinking long term.”

Toleafoa says youth should get behind the march because they are the ones who will benefit from it.

“Students are in a privileged position to make change. The outcomes of the march will affect their futures.”

Reverend Unasa says the march is a chance for Pasifika people to engage in issues that affect them and advocate for solutions.

Collins says this march will be different.

“We are still angry and frustrated but the way in which we bring our people together is very different. This isn’t about smashing buildings. It is about bringing our communities together.

“Finally Pasifika people are standing up and saying loud and clear we are not going to things happen to us – we are not going to take it anymore.”

Marchers will gather in Albert Park at 9am on Saturday.