True calling to work with Pacific people
Accepting the General Manager Policy, Research and Evaluation role at the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP) feels like Aiono Matthew Aileone (pictured) has answered his true calling.
With a 15-year career in New Zealand’s foreign service and more recently representing the building industry to help shape policy initiatives, Aiono says helping shift the dial for Pacific communities will be personally rewarding.
“Pacific people want to see Pacific people thrive,” Aiono says.
“Pacific people’s prosperity in the region goes hand and hand with Pacific people’s prosperity in New Zealand – the role at the Ministry feels more like a calling for me.”
Aiono is proud to be part of the 7.4 percent of New Zealanders who identify with being Pacific.
His parents are originally from the village of Fasitoo’uta in Upolu Samoa, and arrived in New Zealand during the 1970s.
“They first lived in Auckland but then settled in Christchurch where I was born (and yes, my allegiances are still fully aligned to the mighty Crusaders, although I am a die-hard Warriors fan too).”
Coming from a large extended family, he says most of his relatives stayed with his family in Christchurch when they first arrived in New Zealand.
“Our home really was an arrival and departure lounge for most of our large extended family,” he says.
After attending St Bede’s College in Christchurch, Aiono studied Law and Linguistics at Canterbury University, before embarking on a varied and interesting career as a Diplomat, Policy Manager and Legal Advisor, which in turn provided him with an excellent understanding of government.
He brings these attributes to his role at MPP, along with the knowledge of what it is like to grow up as a Pacific person in New Zealand.
“My family were no different to other Pacific families in Christchurch, many of whom lived in certain suburbs like Bromley, Woolston, Aranui, Hornby and Hoon Hay.
“I can appreciate first-hand the value of policy initiatives aimed at delivering positive change for Pacific people.
“I was blessed to have benefitted from scholarships that were available when I was making my way through university - plus, there were a few role models in my church and community who I really looked up to.
This all laid the foundations for my career, which took me right across the Pacific including to Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.”
Aiono has had postings to Vienna, Austria and Canberra, Australia and he currently works as the Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Registered Master Builders Association.
“The Association represents traditional small to medium sized building companies literally consisting of one or two people, a ute and dog.
“It also represents New Zealand’s most influential commercial construction companies responsible for building our cities, which has given me real insight into the entrepreneurship and business, the challenges they face as well as the opportunities.”
Aiono’s commitment to tautua (service) prompted Aiono to apply for the GM Policy role at MPP, he says.
“It is disheartening to see Pacific people falling behind in New Zealand on most economic measures.
“I feel I can bring to bear the skills and experience I have gained from a 15-year career in New Zealand’s foreign service and more recently representing the building industry to help shape policy initiatives which more effectively serve Pacific.”
He says it feels like he has come full circle.
“I have been keen for some time to work at the Ministry but there were never quite the openings, so I am grateful an opportunity came up.
“Collegially I am looking forward to working with other Pacific policy professionals in New Zealand (and of course, enjoying their sense of humour).”
Aiono believes in MPP’s vision to be the authoritative voice for Pacific people in New Zealand.
“MPP is blessed with social and cultural capital which means they are well attuned to the communities they serve, and it really is about drawing on those relationships to extract deep and meaningful insights.
“These insights will be critical in developing policy solutions that deliver for and are centred on Pacific people.”
An important part of his new role will be raising MPP’s profile and operating strategically across government so other officials readily look to the Ministry for advice on Pacific policy issues.
“Robust research is a key part of underlining MPP’s credibility and ensuring we bring real presence on Pacific policy issues,” he says.
“I am keen to see what we can do on research in the Ministry and with partner agencies to ensure our policies are evidence based and results driven.”
Aiono starts his new role at MPP in early October, and MPP Chief Executive Laulu Mac Leauanae says he is looking forward to him joining the MPP team.
“I’m really pleased to have Aiono lead the Policy and Research and Evaluation team,” Laulu says.
“His experience and connections within government will greatly assist MPP, especially with our Pacific Aotearoa work.”
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