Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Pacific people to march for a bigger say

Auckland University chaplain Uesifili Unasa wants the voice of Pacific people to be heard on the streets. Photo / Garry Brandon
Auckland University chaplain Uesifili Unasa wants the voice of Pacific people to be heard on the streets. Photo / Garry Brandon

Auckland's Pacific community plans to take to the streets this month in a bid to gain a voice in the country they now call home.

Thousands are expected to take up a call that started from the council-appointed Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel, which wants to stop being a "rubber stamp" for council policies and create an independent Pacific forum.

"This is the first Pacific march. It's historic. It's a poor people's march," said the panel's chairman, Auckland University chaplain Uesifili UNasa.

"We have forums that are organised by the state or by local government, but actually are to do things for them and to rubber-stamp their policies and their agendas.

"We are talking about a genuinely independent forum that will be able, with authority, to speak for us and advise on the issues and the challenges between the leaders of our governments and our community."

Yesterday, the "Advance Pasifika" Facebook page had signed up 455 people "going" to the event, another 170 "maybe" and 4985 "invited".

Another organiser, youth consultant Efeso Collins, is expecting thousands to turn up on the day, Saturday, June 16. Marchers will walk from Albert Park down to Aotea Square, where Mayor Len Brown and Pacific Island Affairs Minister Hekia Parata will be invited to speak.

The event is billed as a march "for affordable housing, better education, quality healthcare, fairness in our justice system, jobs, our children and families, our churches, a better future, Auckland ... Aotearoa".

Mr UNasa said the education system was failing Pacific children. "Our children don't get taught. The children of the poor are given secondary education at best. They are there to play first XV rugby and to go and dance in Polyfest," he said.

Another organiser, Will 'Ilolahia, said 56 per cent of Pacific people were New Zealand-born and wanted an equal part in society.

The moderator of the Presbyterian Church's northern presbytery, the Rev Fakaofo Kaio, said the march's message was: "Please treat us equally."

"My standing with it is like a voice for the voiceless, because there are a lot of Pacific Island people who won't know what to do," he said.

"They just keep quiet."

- NZ Herald

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