At a community fono on January 2019 Hamilton’s Pasifika leaders discussed priorities for health, education and wellbeing services in the Waikato region.

The fono was facilitated by the K’aute Pasifika Trust which has been providing health, education and social services in Hamilton for over 20 years.

Until recently K’aute was the lead agency in the sevenmember Aeretai Midland Health Collective, funded by the Ministry of Health. Funding for the collective has been disestablished, and while K’aute still plans to work collaboratively with Aeretai health providers across the region, they are now strongly focused on growing strategic partnerships in the Waikato and delivering the education, employment, health and wellbeing services that the community wants.

They are also about to build the first Pan Pasifika Hub in the country.

In the last 18 months, K’aute has been able to take advantage of government funding for two employment services – Niu You funded by MSD and Tupu Aotearoa, funded by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples.

Tupu Aotearoa is the new name for the Pacific Employment Support Service which was recently extended to the midland region.

Niu YOU is the name that K’aute has given to the MSD Job seeker service. It is for people from all ethnic backgrounds.

While the entry criteria for both differ, both provide oneto- one support for people to get into employment or further education: they are helped to set goals, have an achievable plan, get their driver licence, develop a cv, write letters of application, get supported work experience – and finally move into a job or training.

Henry Tuipe’a is the manager of both the employment services: “We started our Niu YOU contract this year. We’ve given it our own title so that it feels more connected to the people we are serving. Niu is the coconut, the source of life in the islands, so that is an appropriate name. During the 26-weeks we do a lot of pastoral care. We want people to feel comfortable and surrounded by family, not just a client or a number. I have found that the people who have been through several providers, and who have not been able to upskill and find work have had no connection, no engagement with the provider. So understanding their background and speaking their language is important.

“We also refer people to our strategic partners. For example we can send people to Literacy Waikato and to financial literacy services – and we have a partnership with the Resettlement Centre which provides driver licence training in a way that is a little different from us, so we can give people a choice based on their learning style. We don’t want our people to fall through the cracks. If they don’t like being in groups, we can send them to where they can learn one-to-one. We break down the barriers so that we give our people every opportunity to succeed.

“In our team we have speakers of all the Pacific languages, so we can always bring in colleagues to help translate. We also have our own health team including our WellChild nurses and counsellors for addiction and gambling, so when they come through, if we realise they are facing other obstacles, we can give them the support they need. We provide a wrap-around service.

“Currently we have 24 people on our Niu YOU course. We help them find sustainable work. Work they are passionate about. You can create more damage if you don’t find them work that they enjoy. So when we develop a plan, we start with – this is where you are at right now – it may take some tertiary study and many years – but we can help you get there.

“It’s about helping people who are just drifting, connecting with them, and giving them that spark to do better so they can support themselves and their families and be an inspiration to their kids.”

The Tupu Aotearoa programme, which operates in the same way (except it is strictly for Pasifika) provides the same wrap-around service with strong pastoral care and refers to other local agencies as appropriate. If there is a requirement for study, they help find scholarships or grants.

Both programmes benefit from the fact that for four days a week K’aute has a Pasifika Work and Income manager working in their space.

Another K’aute programme that has ACE outcomes is the 10- week Ministry of Education Talanoa Ako programme, (previously called Power Up).

Talanoa Ako helps parents understand NCEA, the pathways to further education and training, and the support they need to provide for their children. There are six different workshops, based on the level of the children’s education. Because children come along with their parents (or aunties and uncles if the parents can’t come) there are usually about 100 people at each session. Transport can be provided if families need it.

Silaumea Petersen who is responsible for Talanoa Ako and the wellbeing support services, says that there are outcomes much greater than helping the parents understand how to support their children’s ECE and school education: “One of the things they ask for is scholarship information, and another is how do we support them in their social needs as well. Some also want to know how to support their children starting their own business. So we can cover all that. We have had many parents who have themselves become motivated to get into their own further education. Some are currently studying. Others have gone onto work. They have used this opportunity to get themselves a better life.”

Silaumea is also responsible for a playgroup programme which she says has great outcomes for parents too: “It is parent-led, so we develop the programme with their input. That gives them confidence and an interest in education, as well as an understanding of their role as a champion of their children’s education. We work on reviving culture and language and at the same time integrate the academic concepts as outlined in the Te Whariki Framework.”

Rachel Karalus is K’aute’s CEO: “We are leveraging our development and the development of our people through strategic partnerships. For example, we don’t have the space ourselves to accommodate 100 people at our Talanoa Ako, but Wintec leases us the use of a whole floor on a Monday evening for just $1. The beauty of that is that students or parents who have never been in that space come every week and it becomes like a second home for them. They can see that they can fit in there.

“One of the challenges in our region, is that Pasifika are still seen as a minority population, even though they are high needs, and increasing numbers of Pasifika people are living here. Our partnerships help us grow more organically and make us more visible.

“With our Pan Pasifika Hub, we will have an iconic space that is visible and connected to other major services, such as Wintec down the road and sports stadiums nearby. We will be interlinked. The fale, which will combine aspects of our different island architecture, will hold 670 people standing and 400 sitting. There will be space for computers so we can get more of our people computer literate; there will be a culturally welcoming space for our people to up-skill and get work. And it will provide endless opportunities for informal education, maintaining languages and cultural practices. We will be able to bring together elders and young leaders to learn from each other – to encourage and inspire.”

Lilio Havea took her daughter to Talanoa Ako because she was failing in her large school class. Within weeks, working with a small group of other Pasifika children, she was improving vastly. Meanwhile, in the parents’ class, Lilio was listening to tutors from Wintec and other education professionals talk about study opportunities for adults:

“They said, you are never too old to study, and my daughter, she asked me, why aren’t you studying too? But I told her, I have four children and I have to work, to help pay the bills. Then, I changed my mind. That is when I changed my life.

“I was working at the K’aute play group as a volunteer and they said to me, you should do the early childhood course. So, I talked with my husband and I enrolled. It has been hard because my second child has a health issue, so I had to stop for a while. K’aute arranged counselling and helped get my son some support. Now I am back studying again. I do a timetable so that I know which days I have for study, and which days I have time with my children. I also work one day a week at the factory to help pay the bills.

“I am doing a Bachelor of Early Childhood at Wintec. My husband is supporting me. I am doing really well. I am so proud of myself.

“All my children have been with K’aute [health services] since they were born. And I used to take my grandparents there to a group they have for older people. That was good for them, because they learned to speak some English. Now my parents go.

“K’aute is like a second home. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done. They are helping our families.”