Emerging Pasifika and Maori leaders come together to empower their own

For over two years, CMY’s ‘Le Mana’ (Empower) Pasifika Project has been working to build connected communities and a sense of belonging for Pasifika young people in Victoria.

Two emerging youth-led leadership groups, one in the South East and one in the West of Melbourne, are testament to the success of the Le Mana team in delivering on these promises. Read on to find out more about what these inspiring young people have been up to over the past couple of months…

Le Mana Pasifika Youth Ambassadors is a group of 16 Pasifika and Maori youth volunteers, ranging from 16 to 25 years of age. They are local Maori and Pasifika young people who have gathered as a committee, under the CMY banner, to advocate for all Maori and Pasifika young people. 

Their first step towards empowerment came in the form of a youth-led forum, centred around the theme, ‘Keeping connected to your cultural roots’. This theme came about through a number of informal discussions that the Le Mana youth ambassadors had with Maori and Pasifika young people they knew through church youth groups, school mates and work colleagues. Over 80 young people attended the forum, which was held in April.

“Through the workshops and being in a room with my own kind, I know I am not the only one facing these issues,” said one of the participants.

The forum aimed to provide a space where Maori and Pasifika young people aged between 12 – 25 years were able to voice their opinions about specific issues they face within their communities It also gave them the opportunity to meet new and like-minded people to share and learn from each others’ experiences of being a Maori or Pasifika young person.

“This is what I have been missing, we encouraged each other today, we worked as a team, I found a new family I can lean on,” said one of the participants about their experience.

CMY’s Le Mana Pasifika Youth Workers supported the youth ambassadors through this journey in facilitating consultations with churches, youth groups and young people in high schools which led the forum to focus on four different topics of discussion: Relationships, Legal, Mental Health, and Education.

“I’ve gained new skills and met new people. It has been a great opportunity to upskill in confidence and communication skills,” one participant shared about what they had learned on the day.

What’s next…

The outcomes of this forum have been incredible. The Le Mana Youth Ambassadors are in the process of evaluating each workshop which they will present to service providers and the community. 

Thank you to everyone that helped out on the day and special thanks to Wyndham Youth Services and Headspace for all the support.

Similar to the Youth Ambassadors in the West, the Le Mana Wayfinders are a group of 16-21-year-old youth volunteers living in the South East of Melbourne. They are supported by CMY’s Le Mana project staff working in the area and seek to create projects and programs for the local Maori and Pasifika young people in the area to feel empowered and connected to the community.

With this objective in mind, they developed, planned and hosted the LeMana Pasifika Youth Forum with the theme of Carving Your Future. Close to 80 young people attended the forum that featured guest speakers who ran small group workshops on Employment, Education, and Pursuing You.

“Making the right first impression and being persistent are important to success,” said Anthony Sofe who led the session on Employment. 

Anthony is of Samoan decent, born in Wellington, New Zealand and raised in Melbourne. He is a Recruitment Manager for Vicforce with 15 years’ experience in the recruitment industry. Anthony arrived in Australia in the late 80s and was raised in the original home of the Pasifika community in Melbourne – Clayton. He is a member of the Victorian Samoan Advisory Council and an advisor to the United Pasifika Council of Victoria (UPCOV).

“This is so exciting to see so many of us here!” said one of the participants, “I’m here to support my sister, but I never expected to see so many Pasifika young people come together.”

Dana Tuilotolava shared the story of his success with business in the session on Pursuing You. He is a businessman with a home-based barbershop called Fade ’em Up and an apparel printing business called Custom Kingz.

“Do you know what ‘Pursuing You’ means?” he asked, “It means to be the best version of yourselves!”

Dana is a proud Tongan, born and raised in Melbourne’s South East. He has made a life and career focusing on his multiple passions, which have led him to pursue entrepreneurship. He is a proud father with a son who he acknowledges as the driving force behind his success.

Lorayma Taula shared her Education story in her session. Lorayma is a Melbourne-born and raised Samoan who lived in Samoa for number of years. She is currently completing her PhD in Sociology at Deakin University and dedicates her free time to education and the betterment of our Pasifika people. Lorayma’s thesis is entitled “Tamaitaii Samoa: The Transnational Lives of young Samoan women in Australia and Samoa.”

Her parents migrated to Australia in the late 80s. She grew up in Clayton and attended Clarinda Primary and South Oakleigh Secondary College as well as a number of schools in Samoa. 

Young women in her session felt empowered to raise some of their concerns about being Samoan women in Australia and pursuing higher education, life and careers.

The evening ended with a power-packed Q&A with the guest speakers and CMY’s Le Mana Program Development Leader, Temese Leilua, and a fiery Fijian dance performance. A perfect end to a high-energy, empowering evening. Take a bow, Wayfinders!

What’s next…

The Wayfinders will evaluate the feedback from the forum and gauge the need for future events and respond to it.
To find out what they come up with next, follow them on Facebook.
To find out more about the program or get in contact with the team.