Past Winners

2016 11 30 Coote MPP 606

Winning a Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Award has helped past winners on their path to success.
The awards highlight our up and coming Pacific stars but also inspire their peers to aim high too. 

Below you can find profiles of our previous winners and their achievements.

2016 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners

Air New Zealand Leadership and Inspiration Award
Josiah Tavita Tualamali’i, 21, Christchurch

Josiah is a Samoan New Zealander who has worked to support, develop and mentor Pacific young people in Christchurch and across New Zealand for the last six years. He also provides strategic advice to organisations, councils, MPs and government agencies to help enable Pacific young people to thrive and succeed socially, in their education, wellbeing, civic participation and everyday life. Josiah is studying History of Political Science and Law at the University of Canterbury.

An active member of Christchurch’s Pacific community, Josiah helped establish the PYLAT Council - Pacific Youth Leadership And Transformation. As a founding member, Josiah was appointed to the position of vice Treasurer, then Treasurer and is now Chair of the PYLAT Council Charitable Trust. Josiah has played a key role in bringing together different communities across the city.

He also led the development of iSPEAK, a bi-monthly forum for Pacific youth to discuss issues affecting people in New Zealand, such as the Christchurch recovery and living wage campaign. Josiah coordinates feedback from these fono to submit to the relevant Minister. This initiative is helping young Pacific people participate in the political process.

Josiah sits on a number of Boards, advocating for Pacific youth and ensuring young people’s ideas and perspectives are considered.

He helped develop the University of Canterbury’s Pacific strategy and has worked with the university’s Pacific Development Team to deliver their first year mentoring programme, mentoring four students this year. He has also served on the Samoan Students’ Association.

Josiah has overcome personal obstacles to embrace his Pacific identity, and hopes to forge a career as an academic in political science and history. The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award prize – a visit to Geneva to witness leadership on the global stage – will provide Josiah with an invaluable experience in diplomacy and he hopes to share his story to inspire others on his return.

“I want to continue the work I am doing at Uni, in Christchurch and NZ to make sure our community is well represented in positions of decision making and that the voices of our community are being listened to and acted on,” he says.

Ako Aotearoa STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Award
James Penfold, 20, Dannemora, Auckland

James is a New Zealand born Tongan and a second year medical student. An A grade student, James gained entry into medical school as part of MAPAS, the Maori and Pacific Admission Scheme which provides support throughout the admissions process and ongoing during studies.

In addition to studying, James is tutoring Maori and Pacific students at the University of Auckland. In the first semester he was a part of the Tuākana tutoring staff teaching Biology of Biomedical Science to classes of around 30-50 students. Tuākana offers an opportunity to provide whakawhanaungatanga and group learning to both Maori and Pacific students. In the second semester he worked for MAPAS, tutoring many of the first year students aiming to gain admission into the medical programme. He was teaching Medical Science with classes of about 40-50 first year students.

In addition to becoming a doctor, James wants to get involved with organisations that address Pacific and Maori community issues such as nutrition and re-employment after incarceration. He is currently working with colleagues on an initiative to address the barriers of Hauora, involving mala’e and marae to determine how best to provide services in an accessible, acceptable and appropriate manner.

James says: “I would love to be able to give back to the Pacific community. Being part of MAPAS has opened my eyes to the disparities and inequalities present in New Zealand. I feel as though being a Pacific doctor in the health work force will help me to address some of these disparities.

“Additionally, I hope to be able to go back to Tonga and do some health work there to improve their health status and also offer opportunities to further health promotion and development."

Government Communications Security Bureau  (GCSB) Sub-Category STEM Award
Roneima Teumohenga, 18, Palmerston North

Roneima is New Zealand-born with Samoan, Tokelauan and Tongan heritage. She is in her final year at Palmerston North Girls High School and studying Physics, Biology, Chemistry, English and Calculus.

Roneima was born with permanent hearing loss, with only 80% hearing in both ears and she will wear hearing aids for the rest of her life. Roneima worked hard at school and was awarded the Top Scholar Academic Cup at Cornerstone Christian School in 2011. Hearing loss affects balance amongst other things, however this did not stop her from representing the Manawatu Region in athletics and netball. “I have never and will never use my hearing loss as an excuse or barrier to stop me from working towards the goals I set for myself, in fact it is what drives me to give everything I do 100%” she says.

Roneima started an informal study group with a few Pasifika students from her school on weekends and during school holidays, resulting in increased confidence and improved grades for participants. She led a group of mentors working alongside Pasifika primary school children at the Cornerstone Christian School after school literacy programme, and has taken part in the Lower North Island Inter School Pasifika Fusion from 2012-2016 in essay writing, poetry, debate and science categories.
At her current high school, Roneima set up an after school tutoring/mentoring programme for students whose parents are not in a financial position to pay for subject tutors, called Excel. School management and deans have committed to ensuring Excel is supported and promoted to be part of the normal school day every Fridays beyond 2016. She is also student Head of Humanities and Science, leading a group of 13 prefects responsible for promoting a positive learning environment where good work ethics and striving for excellence is normalised and supported.

She is a high academic achiever and represented her school at the Rotary Science and Technology forum in Auckland January 2016. She has twice served as a Youth Judge for the Manawatu Fonterra Science Fair as well as being awarded the High Distinction prize for her Lichen research project. She is a long serving member of the Mathematics committee at school, represented them at Mathex competitions as well as being a Mathematics tutor for the school’s Maths zone.

“I have always had a passion for science and how it can be used to improve the health and wellbeing of Pasifika people. “

“Research shows a significant increase in the number of Pasifika people with head and brain injuries in New Zealand and abroad. My future goal is to become a Neurosurgeon to work alongside Pasifika families and communities in New Zealand and in the Pacific.”

BNZ Commercial & Corporate Award
Manako Nemaia, 20, Otahuhu

Despite having no accounting background, in 2014 Manako secured a place at Auckland University of Technology through a scholarship, and she will be graduating with a business degree majoring in accounting.

She has demonstrated leadership through mentoring, focusing on first year Pasifika students. Earlier this year she mentored 30 young high school leavers with aspirations to obtain higher education and 90% of them went on to begin their studies.

Manako aims to become a qualified accountant through a selected professional body, where she can assist in building and growing local New Zealand businesses with her accounting experience. Manako says: “I have an interest in building my own business and this award will allow me to experience another aspect of business adding to my skills, knowledge, and the way I view our changing world. I have always wanted to work under the direction of a mentor because I know that such a relationship will be invaluable and instrumental in my present and future endeavours.”

Manako has always been involved in the Niuean community from a young age, and she is involved in the Niue Youth Network, a body of young Niue people who are proud of their culture and passionate about the language. She helps the group organise events for our young people to connect with their Niue roots and celebrate their culture.

Deloitte Business & Enterprise Award
Sanita Betham, 18, Wellington

Sanita is of Samoan/New Zealand descent and is a student at Victoria University in Wellington. Sanita is hardworking and filled with drive and passion. She is proud of her cultural heritage. She is studying a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Computer Science (conjoint with a Bachelor of Commerce) at Victoria University of Wellington and 2017 will be her second year of study.

Academically, she is a high achiever, completing four computer science related courses at tertiary level this year, and she received the Victoria Achiever Scholarship for 2015. Sanita manages to balance this with work, church and family commitments, as well as dance – her crew (Projekt Brownies) were placed first in Auckland Street Dance NZ regionals and fourth in the Street Dance NZ Nationals this year.
Throughout her time at Wellington Girls College, Sanita was involved in the Pacific community, including participation in the Polynesian Group and her commitment to the Te-Ropu-a-Kiwa committee, which dealt with matters concerning Pacific and Maori students and culture. Sanita tutored two younger Pacific students in Science, Maths and English. Inspired by Te Ropu Awhina, the on campus whanau at Victoria University for Pacific and Maori students pursuing science, engineering, and architecture and design degrees, Sanita hopes one day to become a mentor and support university students.

After graduating, Sanita hopes to apply and expand her skills at a technology company and become involved with a start-up that gives back to and creates opportunities within the Pacific community and/or other minority communities.
Sanita says this Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award prize is invaluable for helping her get practical experience while studying.

Creative New Zealand Arts & Creativity Award
Jahra Wasasala, 24, Blockhouse Bay, Auckland
Jahra 'Rager' Wasasala, 24, from Blockhouse Bay, Auckland is a New Zealand born Fijian and Pacific Artist. Her mediums are contemporary dance, choreography and spoken word.

Jahra has represented New Zealand’s Pacific community in the Festival of the Pacific Arts held in Guahan (Guam), toured a collaborative dance work in Australia in Next Wave Festival with Indigenous dance maker Amrita Hepi, performed in one of the headline shows 'Taumata' in Tempo Dance Festival as well as recently premiering her solo dance/poetry work 'bloo/d/runk' at the Sophiensaele Theatre in Berlin, Germany.

She has developed a following for her dance and poetry work online, and her experience as a performer and facilitator has demonstrated that young people and students relate and respond to her leadership, vision, passion, struggle and the development of her creative work because of how it links to their own journeys.
“As a mixed-race Pacific artist, I live by example of how young people can reconnect with their culture when they have been disconnected - particularly around the 'Afakasi' conversation. It is incredibly important to me to find accessible ways to encourage young people to connect with their Pacific heritage in their own unique way, and to support them in using that knowledge to inform our current world,” she says.

Jahra has also been a mentor and facilitator for Rising Voice Youth Poetry Slam over the past two years, supporting 12 young emerging poets through writing and performance workshops over two months, leading to a performance outcome and a public poetry slam competition. Poetry has also provided Jahra with the opportunity to mentor and facilitate young Pacific poets overseas at the annual 'Pacific Tongues Poetry Festival' in 2015. Jahra is a tutor in the Ia Manuia Open Dance community classes, where she provides exceptional physical dance training to the Pacific community, creates safe spaces for them to physically express themselves and their voices.

She is a founding member of the Youth Advisory Group at the Auckland Museum and also sits as a Youth Advisor on the Pacific Advisory Group, which has given her the opportunity to learn about governance and Pacific representation in institutions.
Jahra is dedicated to increasing the representation of Pacific women in the arts and is pushing to create more spaces for Pacific women to be visible.

“As an active mentor in the Pacific Art/Dance/Poetry community, I hold a genuine passion for enabling, facilitating and supporting the growth and development of young people, Pacific people, and refugee youth, through initiatives like Ia Manuia, Rising Voices and Mixit Refugee Arts. For the past few years I have extensively worked alongside many young people to help them discover and grow their own potential and express their own stories,” she says.

The Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award will enable Jahra to take part in international indigenous and mainstream contemporary dance, choreographic-based and creative writing-based residencies overseas. She is specifically looking at residencies in Europe and Canada, which both have residencies that have a strong emphasis on indigenous issues and choreographic mentoring. The Award will also help Jahra to tour, produce and choreographically develop her multi-disciplinary contemporary dance and poetry solo work 'bloo/d/runk'.

Auckland Council Community Star Award
Emma Takataka, 21, Otara

A New Zealand-born Tongan, Emma is a third year law and arts student. The eldest of nine children, Emma’s values stem from the humility, empathy and love displayed to her by her parents. She has fought stereotypes throughout her life, and has overcome some of the negative experiences she had whilst growing up to become a source of strength to the people she works with.

Emma is a volunteer youth leader in the Tangaroa Ward in Tamaki Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, volunteering at least three hours a week to support young girls aged 12-18 realise their true potential, as well as help run community activities. She is committed to fulfilling her duties and responsibilities to the highest standards.

She is also a member of the Otara Papatoetoe Youth Council Advisory, which works with local government leaders in the area. This gives her the opportunity to be a voice for the vulnerable and unheard, representing the voice of youth in Otara and Papatoetoe. She says of her volunteer work: “It is a privilege to have that responsibility and hope to help in developing projects for the community to grow.” 

Emma is an actively engaged member of the University of Auckland’s Pacific Island Law Student Association and is involved in the Malosi Project (the Movement for Action and Law to Overcome Social Injustices), which motivates young people to share discourse on legal and policy issues Pacific people face, educate Pacific people on their rights and advocates for Pacific people in legal and political spheres. Emma was recently elected her law school’s Cultural Officer for 2017. She has been mentoring disadvantaged high-school aged Pacific and Maori youth with the Great Potentials Foundation. Emma is also an entrepreneur, establishing a small health and beauty business venture with her sister in hopes of promoting self-confidence in others.

“I aspire in the future to work within institutions which make the central decisions to policy and legal issues which impact Pacific people …The award of doing a paid internship with Auckland Council would give me the relevant experience and exposure to an organisation which contributes significantly to my community on daily basis. From this experience I could apply such knowledge broadly in all aspects of my life but specifically when working with Otara and Papatoetoe Youth Advisory Council.”

New Zealand Institute of Sport (NZIS) Sports & Fitness Award
Mafutaga Tau, 18, Porirua

Samoan New Zealander Mafutaga has excelled in sports, with multiple shields, titles and caps including the Neville Shield, McEvedy Athlete, McEvedy Champion, McEvedy Champion 100m and running in U16 grade. He was a record holder of 11.48 seconds for U14s.

Mafutaga was also McEvedy Champion Relay (2012-2016), second 15 rugby in 2015 with a captaincy in 2016, and first 15 rugby training squad with three games in 2016.
At his school, St Patrick's College, he has played as Sevens Condors Qualifier Champions (2016), and Sevens Condors National Squad (2016). He is also the National Champion U16 Relay (2013), placed in the top eight at the U16 100m in 2013. He has also played in the National Tag Champion Squad (2015) and was National Tag Runners Up (2016).

Despite being ‘injury prone’, Mafutaga always trains hard, eating healthy and ensuring he is ready to perform after a recover process.

Mafutaga is heavily involved in his church and its youth group, and he has also worked at the Cannons Creek Opportunity Centre holiday programme for four years, working with a diverse range of kids to help them enjoy their holidays, but also act as a role model and support them.

“My future aspirations are to be a professional sports athlete in either rugby, athletics or rugby sevens or a Personal Trainer. I want to be a leader and an influence for the younger generation and show that it doesn't take raw talent and the best sidestep, or the fancy passes and big hits to make it professionally. It takes one heart and a whole lot of hard work.”

New Zealand Institute of Sport (NZIS) Sports & Fitness Award
Ayesha Leti-I'iga, 17, Porirua
Ayesha is a New Zealand-born Samoan sportswoman who is willing to work hard to better her future and inspire those around her.

She says: “I am a 17 year old Samoan girl who grew up with my grandparents after losing my beloved mother when I was just 10 years old. Instead of going downhill I have chosen to use this to push me even harder in school and especially in sports. Every game I play I write my mother’s name on my wrist as it helps fuel me. Every time I am running I know she is always there running with me and everything I do is for her, my grandparents, family and friends.”

Ayesha’s achievements in sport include playing in the Wellington Pride Women’s Team, New Zealand Sevens programme, Black Ferns wider squad, the Pathway to Podium programme and New Zealand Sevens Series.

She was also nominated for the Wellington Federation Rugby Union (WFRU) Women’s Rugby Player of the Year and WFRU’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, Wellington College Sport nomination for Girls Rugby and she won the Wellington Pride Women’s Back of the Year. Ayesha has captained the Porirua College 1st XV Rugby Girls and the Porirua College Sevens team and was awarded Senior Sportswoman of Porirua College.

Ayesha is also active in the community, playing in her local Touch Rugby and Flag tournament at Cannons Creek Park. She has coached the Under 15s Porirua College team and is a student leader at the Breakaway Holiday Programme for 11-17 year olds run by the Porirua Whanau Centre.

Ayesha has had to contend with challenging stereotypes about Samoan girls and sport, but has drawn strength from her rugby coaches and team mates. She even won over her grandparents, who had initially opposed her playing ruby, but after seeing her perform on the field always cheer her on from the sidelines.

Ayesha says: “Winning this award will help lessen the burdens financially on my grandparents, family and myself. I don't come from a rich family. Having this award will be a great recognition of the work everyone has done to help assist me in achieving what has been achieved thus far, and what yet is to come.”

In the future, Ayesha says she would love to be a Black Fern and in the New Zealand Women's Sevens team. She also has dreams of becoming a Physiotherapist.

2015 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners


Leadership and Inspiration, sponsor: Air New Zealand
Prize: A trip to New York to see New Zealand on the UN Security Council.

Leorida says she leads by example to empower Pasifika success and contribute to progress for Pasifika people. She has a special passion for empowering females to achieve.

The 17-year-old has already proven her dedication to leading and helping others with her involvement in a number of projects including the Sir Peter Blake Youth Leadership Forum, the United Nations General Assembly Australia, the United Nations Youth Pacific Project Samoa and the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development Conference. She has also shone as the Auckland Girl’s Grammar School 2015 Deputy Head Girl and leader of the school’s Polyfest Samoan Group.

She is passionate about humanitarian and global issues and has used her leadership roles as an educational platform to inform her Pasifika peers of global issues and to encourage them to be proactive to make a difference.

Leorida says her faith and the support of her mother are her guiding forces. She says as an only child raised by her Samoan mother, with the support of her grandmother, she learnt the importance of her identity, her language, values of her loving family and that education was critical to success.

Leorida says she has experienced bullying and many of her peers have tried to discredit or embarrass her for wanting to succeed. She says though they were troubled times and made her doubt herself, her faith and support of her aiga helped her through and she is always willing to lend her listening skills for those struggling with any issue.

Leorida says her experiences have sparked the justice and freedom fighter within and has inspired her aspiration to study Law and Arts majoring in Politics and International Relations and Pacific Studies.

She is confident these studies will assist her in her ultimate goal of working in foreign policy or diplomatic service.

Sports and Fitness, sponsor: New Zealand Institute of Sport
Prize: A scholarship worth $6000 for one year of tuition fees and course related costs at the New Zealand Institute of Sport.

Jarimar is already a recognisable face around many rugby fields in the Wellington region, he’s been playing rugby since he could walk and dreams of performing at the highest level as an All Black.

Jarimar’s carving out a promising rugby career which started at St Patricks College before moving to Scots College last year. He says playing his old school in the finals in 2015 and winning for Scots College was personally hard for him to deal with however in the professional era something he knows he will have to get used to. He also broke his leg in that final and being unable to play for three months was challenging.

Despite this, Jarimar went on to receive the prestigious Rugby Colours award for Scots college this year and is also showing his all-round sporting ability by coaching a rugby holiday programme for 7 – 10 year olds.

He says contributing to the game as a player in every aspect is important to keeping skills on point on and off the field. He has already represented his school teams in Japan and Malaysia and says learning to be a better public speaker is a must for professional athletes. Jarimar says this award will allow him to focus fully on rugby and plans to pursue his dream of becoming an All Black with plans to go to Police Training School in the next five years.

He is extremely passionate and excited about his next step in life after successfully gaining entry into the New Zealand Institute of Sport where he will be studying the pre-police proficiency programme.

"I believe I can make a real difference and contribution to the communities I serve,” Jarimar says.


Business & Enterprise, sponsors: Pacific Business and The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
Prize: $10,000 cash to invest in business growth and development.

Grace has proven her business acumen and innovation by creating a product she says will revolutionise the hospitality industry.

Like all good entrepreneurs she saw a problem and found a solution to solve it with a product that is now in prototype stage.

She says her Slyd’InHolder Tray idea came from working as a waitress and many in the hospitality industry are already in support of her product. She says she’s already been asked to hurry up her development process so it can go to market. “I have a comprehensive business plan, a perfected prototype and interest in the product domestically and internationally. The sooner it comes the better is what I’m hearing.”

She plans to change the way the hospitality industry operates by offering innovative ways to do things better.

Grace says her Fijian upbringing has meant humility is a big part of who she is and how she operates. “I have dreamed of revolutionising the hospitality and tourism industry in my home country of Fiji, to create better, faster, easier and practical service,” she says.

She is living in Whangarei and splits her time when she’s not working on her product between working for a local restaurant and a recruitment agency.


Arts & Creativity, sponsor: Creative NZ
Prize: $10,000 to fund a paid internship or residency with a New Zealand arts organisation or put towards an approved arts project. 

Sione is an accomplished and exhibited artist.

He says his creative performance art works encompasses and details his identity as a young New Zealand born Tongan and the struggles of a bi-cultural life.

He has a Bachelor in Fine Arts Honours (First Class) and a Master of Fine Arts (First Class honours) from the University of Auckland’s prestigious Elam School of Fine Arts.
He has exhibited at various art galleries around Auckland and his exhibitions this year include Ha’amonga, curated by Ane Tonga.

He will be exhibiting in Christchurch and Melbourne in 2016.

He says the challenges for a young New Zealand born Tongan from Otara in South Auckland are many and hopes his creative work helps others confront and conquer their struggles too.

Sione says as the only Pacific person in his fine arts class he often felt the pressure to represent and influence his peers for all Pacific communities.

“Without experiencing these adversaries and obstacles I would not have achieved what I have today. They have shaped me, made my rough edges smoother and fine-tuned me to what I have accomplished thus far.”

Sione is also a youth leader at his church and says performing art is a great way to express stories with youth about subjects that may be difficult. He also supports the Otahuhu Tongan group during the annual Polyfest.

Sione is currently working at the Auckland Museum and plans to start his Doctorate in Fine Arts at the University of Auckland in 2016. His research will focus on Pacific men in New Zealand, in particular Tongan men.

Sione says his study will help him towards achieving his future aspiration of becoming a lecturer.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), sponsors: Youthline, Ako Aotearoa and The University of Waikato.

Prize: $10,000 total cash to fund learning and development opportunities and associated expenses, plus an option to take up a $5,000 scholarship towards study at University of Waikato. Antony says such is his determination to succeed in science that he’s already referring to himself as a “Hero Marine Biologist.”

He says the ocean has barely been explored and he believes many of the solutions that can help Pacific and global communities deal with the world’s depleting resources may lie in the ocean. Antony says the Pacific Ocean is a playground for aquatic life and scientific research and knowledge can provide many economic benefits for Pacific communities.

His Cook Islands and Fijian heritage ensure his love of the ocean and his drive to succeed. He says his family are a constant source of encouragement and his mother is always reminding him to believe in himself. Antony grew up in South Auckland, was a prefect at Onehunga High School and also a peer sexuality support programme leader. He says being a Pacific teenager can present many challenges however with guidance and support anyone can overcome adversity.

Antony’s excellence has already been acknowledged with winning a first year Marine Biology Scholarship at AUT in 2014 and plans to continue studying Marine Biology at AUT, where he is often called upon to present a student’s perspective on behalf of the school of Applied Sciences.


2014 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners


2014 Learning and Teaching Award (sponsored by Youthline & Ako Aotearoa) – Lauraina Funaki

Since winning, 18-year-old Lauraina (Nuiean) is well on her way to achieving her dreams of becoming a lawyer. She has recently moved to Wellington to complete a Bachelor of Law & Arts at Victoria University. Lauraina has used her reward money to cover most of the costs of her tuition fees. The award has helped her settle into a new place at the University’s hall of residence where she is immersing herself in the Victoria University culture. In her role as a National Youth Leader volunteer of a Youthline initiative called National Youth Council, Lauraina has certainly been busy outside her studies too. The Council consists of selective youth members in Northland, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Meeting twice a year to discuss events they want to launch in their own regions, Lauraina and her team organised a successful Youth Conference in Auckland called Unite, Ignite and Make a Change. She certainly has lived by this mantra by working hard with a positive disposition. “Regardless of your past and present situations, obstacles you’re facing, living situations at home and whichever field you specialised in or want to specialise, you can do anything you put your mind to.” Lauraina is aiming to be a lawyer who works with Pasifika communities.

2014 Leadership & Inspiration Award (sponsored by Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs) – Sione Manuoleva

Sione, 25, (Tongan) is currently training with the NZ Army, doing the year-long commissioning course to become an Army Officer which he will graduate from in December. Alongside this course, he is extramurally studying with Massey University History of Modern Warfare. “What I enjoy about history, particularly as a leader – is that history provides so many lessons learnt that many of the obstacles that lie ahead in the future can be mitigated by analysing the past.” He is putting the prize money towards undergraduate study for a BA, majoring in Political Science and International Relations which he will start in 2016. Sione says his motivation comes in bursts and requires a lot of energy, but once he finds it, it becomes sustainable when it turns into commitment. With a long-term goal in mind of working with youth development programmes in the Pacific, we are certain Sione will be using that commitment to equip our Pacific youth for bright futures.

2014 Sports & Fitness Award Winner (sponsored by New Zealand Institute of Sport) – Paxton Maligi

18-year-old Paxton (Samoan) is in her first year at the New Zealand Institute of Sport completing a Diploma in Sports Management & Exercise Prescription. Paxton has put the award towards her studies which she says has been a huge financial help for her and her family. She says she is extremely grateful for the award in helping her as she doesn’t have to pay much on her student loan. Having this burden removed, has allowed her to focus on sporting abilities and coach her past school’s Premier 2 Netball team at Rutherford College. Her U19 Netball team from the Waitakere Netball Centre in West Auckland was placed third in the New Zealand Nationals.

2014 Business and Enterprise Award (sponsored by Pacific Business Trust and Westpac) – Black Bulb Co

The former Manurewa High School students, aged 18-20-years-old, are busy managing not only their studies but their thriving food business too. The young entrepreneurs Wilson Lesa (Samoan), Naotia Atiana (Kiribati), Raniella San Sebastian (Filipino) and Mile Fonoia (Samoan), have been gaining a following for providing consumers with premium food goods. Wilson says the company's focus is to promote healthy food products in a new way. Their premium black garlic aioli is an example of this contemporary twist which gave them first prize at the 2014 food show. Aside from winning prizes, the group is also doing well in their studies with Mile at Otago University, Naotia completing law and business at Auckland University and Raniella and Wilson at AUT completing a Bachelor of Business. Wilson and Naotia have also started their own individual businesses which are in the product development stage. Naotia's business is called Solar Homes which offers affordable portable homes on wheels. Wilson’s business targets the energy market with his Tribe Energy product, a sugar and calorie free drink. Black Bulb Co will use their prize money to pay off their manufacturer so they can start the distribution process in local stores, along with investing their own money. This exposure will be a test for product development purposes and if all goes to plan, they will be targeting high ends stores. Expect to be adding black garlic aioli to your favourite recipes soon!

2014 Arts & Creativity Award (sponsored by Creative NZ) – Thomas Fonua

The 23-year-old (Tongan/Samoan) is currently overseas where he continues to make a big mark on contemporary dance. Thomas will use the award money to help establish a dance company in New Zealand focusing on Pacific and indigenous contemporary dance. He plans to fuse his distinct style of movement with Pacific and indigenous history and culture. Last year Thomas joined Australian Dance Theatre as a guest artist for the Indonesian tour of Be Yourself and made his Adelaide debut in Proximity. This year he performed in the Australian National Tour of Be Yourself.


2013 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners


2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) -Manatu 'Ofa Mei Vailahi Fia

Manatu this year graduated from The University of Otago with a Bachelor of Science with Honours. The 22-year-old (Tongan) used the prize money to cover travel costs to the Pacific for post-graduate research into mental illness in the Pacific community. Completing this degree has been very rewarding for Manatu who originally studied anatomy and social biology, but switched her focus to psychology after realising just how under-represented Pasifika people were in the field. "I've found a field that I'm definitely needed in - we need more Pacific people in the clinical psychology field. It was just amazing how I stumbled upon it."


2013 Leadership Award - (sponsored by University of Auckland) - Ann-Helen Rasmussen

Ann-Helen, 25, (Samoan) has now completed her undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Education and her postgraduate (Honours).  She aspires to do her Masters someday. She has used the award money to help fund her year of post-graduate study. Ann-Helen’s dissertation topic looked at how teacher’s beliefs influence their pedagogy or, in other words, how they teach. Part of the Steering Committe for the Young, Free & Pasfikiayouth rally with aims to empower young Pasifika women from the Auckland region, she is also working with Affirming Works in Manukau. In this she helps run youth, mentoring and educational services to help encourage Pacific people finish education. Her passion continues to be examining factors that cause Pasifika under achievement in New Zealand and the Pacific. Ann-Helen continues to be an example of success and someone to make a difference.


2013 Creativity Award – (sponsored by Weta Workshop) -Aaron Unasa

Since winning the award, 23-year-old Aaron, (Samoan and Cook Island Maori heritage) has focused on his internship at Weta Workshop mostly working in the mould-making department. Aaron says the award has helped him in receiving an internship at Weta Workshop and he feels blessed to have a career in a field he’s interested in. “It’s like making the All Blacks, it’s huge.” The internship has put in him a position to learn different skills, techniques and new materials in a very competitive environment. Furthermore, he says the award has given him an opportunity to network and learn from people who have a lot of experience in the film industry, and who have worked alongside big names e.g. James Cameron and Peter Jackson – to name a few! Winning he says is one of the biggest achievements of his life. Aaron says he sacrificed a lot of time for his studies, setting goals that paid off when he won.  The award was not only an achievement for himself but his family too. “The awards offer great opportunities and applicants should take it seriously as it can help put them on to a career path they are passionate about.” Aaron says the awards prove hard work pays off. “I feel lucky every day to do something I love”.


2013 Inspiration Award (sponsored by Cogita) – Edmond Fehoko

Currently working as a Learning Advisor at AUT University North Shore campus, Edmund, 24, (Tongan) has now completed his Masters in Social Sciences. His research explored how the cultural practice of kava-drinking or the faikava can become an identity marker for New Zealand-born Tongan males in Auckland. A number of publications with New Zealand Sociology have published his findings and he has presented in conferences. The benefits from receiving his award have been very overwhelming he says. It has provided Edmund opportunities to not only travel but to establish networks from around the world. The award money allowed him to travel to Oxford University to present in the8th Global Conference on Multiculturalism, Conflict and Belonging which was a “dream come true” and an AUT first. Although he was proud of his achievement, Edmund says making his parents and grandmother proud was the best part of it. “It was confirmation that I had made the dreams of migrant parents from the Kingdom of Tonga come true.” Edmund is now looking to pursue his studies to obtain a PhD. He is very interested in coming down to see the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Awards 2015 to watch the next Pacific stars in the making. “Strive, seek and succeed in your journey,” to quote Winston Churchill he says –“never give up!”


2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) Elizabeth Tu’u Moli

Elizabeth, 25, (Samoan) is working at the Pacific Island Community Trust in Tauranga and is grateful for the opportunity to develop professionally there. Winning has meant a lot for her community in Bay of Plenty (BOP) she says. “It signaled there are Pacific people in other areas of New Zealand outside the main centres, and that we are working hard to support our people in BOP”. She was privileged to receive a scholarship to help towards her law studies and says the award has given her a greater confidence in her purpose. Elizabeth has become deeply involved in volunteer and community work. The award she says also helped her acknowledge those who have been crucial to her development particularly her Church, family and workplace. She encourages all to go for these awards and that applicants are not going into this alone - they have the support from their family and community behind them all the way. “Be brave and don’t be shy to put yourself out there. Remember, you’re not doing this alone, you’re doing it with your family and community behind you, so for it!”


2013 Inspiration Award – (sponsored by Cogita) Mary Tiumalu

23-year-old Mary (Samoan) has now completed her law and arts degree at the University of Auckland. She has used the awards money to spend six weeks in the Pacific in Fiji working with Save the Children which she has just returned from. Working in their policy team to raise awareness and look at issues such as child trafficking and domestic violence, Mary says she was inspired. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to go overseas to help make a difference and the award money not only gave me an opportunity but a purpose.” This purpose is to continue to work with Pacific communities abroad and locally and she is keen to land a role at the Ministry of Education now that she has graduated. “I want to continue to raise awareness of how education can help and empower our people.” Mary credits her family for giving her the support and determination to back this dream and says the award has paved the way for her to do what she loves. “Spending six weeks in the Pacific confirmed for me that I want to help our community and encouraged me to continue doing so.” “As long as you’re enjoying what you do then that is success in itself.”


2013 Vodafone NZ Foundation Mobiles 4 Good Award – Reina Vaai

Reina 25, (Samoan) has been admitted to the bar in April and graduated from her law degree in May this year. She is currently keeping busy working at a law firm in Auckland - while getting ready to take the social media world by storm! Reina is soon to launch her own social media page Truth She Wrote which will feature YouTube clips each week of Girl Bosses who brunch. “The aim is to profile an inspiring Pacific woman each week and I will be taking them out to coffee and talking to them about their hopes and dreams. “The first lady I’m speaking with is the first ever Pacific sociology lecturer at Auckland University who is a Mum and in her twenties. These are the stories I want to tell.” The award she says has been the biggest confidence boost as it reinforced there were no limitations. “To be awarded for my creative outlet gave me the courage to pursue all my passions.“We are told that once you’re a lawyer that is your job but it doesn’t have to be -I want to prove to our Pacific people that they can also pursue all their talents as we have many of them. “ Winning Reina says, solidified this for her and taught her that it was possible to dream. She encourages all our Pacific youth to get on board to apply for the 2015 awards so that they can live out their own dreams.


2012 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners

2012 Leadership Award (sponsored by The University of Auckland) - Karina Kaufusi

Karina set out on her leadership path at a young age. When she was about 12 years old she led her intermediate school’s Tongan cultural group through weeks of rehearsals and costume-making before successfully performing at a cultural festival. She thrived on this early leadership experience and soon aspired to become a leader in her school community. At Epsom Girls Grammar School (EGGS), Karina led various cultural and sporting groups, co-founding the Pacific Student Committee to help raise Pasifika students’academic results. She is currently studying for a Conjoint Degree of Engineering and Commerce at the University of Auckland, where she also holds the leadership roles of Tuakana Mentor and Tuakana Tutor.


2012 Creativity Award (sponsored by Weta) - Masuaga Pati AhSue

Pati is a 23-year-old Samoan-New Zealander who graduated from the Manukau School of Visual Arts (MSVA) in 2011. Creative arts have long been a passion for Pati, with conceptual art being his main focus. Conceptual art is a form of illustration which delivers a visual representation of a design or idea before it is used in films, video games or animations. Because MSVA did not offer conceptual art as a subject, Pati decided to explore the art-form independently. He researched Weta Workshop and other industry professionals as well as delving into the art form himself.

2012 Inspiration Award (sponsored by Cogita Business Systems) – Barney Koneferenisi

Nothing has stood in the way of 18-year-old Samoan Barney Koneferenisi achieving his dreams – not even a major disability. At the age of four months, Samoan New Zealander Barney lost both his legs, his right hand and, four fingers on his left hand to meningitis. Through determination and a strong will to succeed, Barney has overcome this disability to become an integral member of the New Zealand Wheelchair Rugby Team (the ‘Wheelblacks’) and is also currently Deputy Head Boy at Papatoetoe High School.

2012 Innovation Award (sponsored by Air New Zealand Aviation Institute) – Ranamila Joji Chute

Fijian-born Ranamila is a Year 13 student at Birkenhead College in Auckland and has long been fascinated by all things aviation. He is a frequent visitor to the Air New Zealand Aviation Institute and worked at a rally-car company during his summer holidays. Outside of his passion for aviation, 18-year-old Ranamila has displayed a strong community focus through volunteer work with his local church in Northcote and work as a peer-tutor at Birkenhead College. He helped establish the volunteer organisation with his church youth group. Ranamila hopes that the Air New Zealand Innovation award will help achieve his dream of landing an Air New Zealand apprenticeship.

2012 Mobiles4Good Award (sponsored by Vodafone NZ Foundation) - Douglas Quensell

Douglas is 23 and currently the only Tongan studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Auckland. He hopes to “give back” to the Pacific community by designing a mobile cellular network that can operate in an environment containing many obstacles, such as the mountainous Tongan island of Vava’u and other Pacific areas. Through the University of Auckland South Pacific Indigenous Students group (SPIES), he has made visits to several schools in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. He has been accepted into the Royal New Zealand Navy, where he hopes to travel to various Pacific Island nations and improve his understanding of radio communication systems and the electronic communication needs of the Pacific.

2011 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners

2011 Leadership Award winner- Nadeen Papali’i

Otara resident Nadeen used her award to offset her tuition fees for a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Nadeen’s thesis is water quality in developing countries - a practical topic she is passionate about and keen to implement in the Pacific and other developing countries around the world.

2011 Inspiration Award winner- Jessica Papali’i-Curtain

Jessica used her $5000 award money to travel with her husband to Cambodia in early 2012, where they volunteered at a training centre and orphanage for children. During her time in Cambodia she screened hundreds of patients to assess their health. Her ultimate aim is to use her medical training to address Pacific peoples’ health issues in New Zealand, and in the Pacific.

2011 Innovation Award winner- Cameron Hoare

At 17 years old, Cameron was the youngest of the Award winners last year and embarked on his 32-week pre-employment aircraft maintenance training programme in January. Cameron completed the training programme on October 19 and says it has increased his desire to enter into a career in aviation. Having already qualified to be a glider pilot, he is now working towards his private pilot’s licence with a long-term goal of becoming a commercial pilot.

2011 Inspiration Award winner- Brandon Jackson

Winning the award gave Brandon more motivation to continue his study towards a Bachelor degree in human services. With his studies completed at the end of 2012, he plans to use his award money to fund a trip to United States of America to work in youth centres and undertake further study. His ultimate goal is to become a youth worker in his home community of Otara.

2011 Inspiration Award winner- Joyce Toleafoa

In 2013, Joyce will finish her education degree with a major in primary school education and plans to travel to French Polynesia to visit primary schools. She hopes to work on projects with local schools in the region and bring fresh teaching ideas back to New Zealand.

2011 Creativity Award winner-Mark Dewes

Mark has shown huge determination and commitment to securing this award. He says being shortlisted last year gave him a huge boost in confidence and the will to try again. Since then he has further developed his skills through part-time work with Glasshammer Studios in Auckland. He knows he is one of the lucky ones, and says the best way of honouring that is by working very hard and always remembering that he should take nothing for granted.  Mark has other part-time employment as well and regards working seven days a week as good practice for his internship at Weta Workshop.

2010 Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards Winners

2010 Inspiration Award winner: Tammy Kingi

Tammy Kingi (22) from Mangere Bridge, Auckland has played an integral part of the Niuean Students Association at the University of Auckland for several years now. She has shown passion and commitment to her culture, cultural practise and maintenance of language. She is fluent in Niuean and has a working knowledge of Tongan, Maori and Samoan. Tammy is a Youth Advisor on the Le Va Advisory Board, an executive member of the Auckland University Pacific Islands Association and a DREAM fono mentor for high school students.
Tammy has completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in linguistics and Pacific Island studies. Presently, she continues with post-graduate studies in linguistics.
Tammy was selected and shortlisted because she has extensive involvement within the Pacific community and has advocated for the Pacific youth voice. She is a strong Pacific youth representative, secure in her identity, and committed to encouraging and inspiring others to achieve their potential. 

2010 Creativity Award winner: Samuelu Tevita Si'ilata

Samuelu Siilata (24) from Manukau has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of creativity in the arts. He has excelled in poetry, songwriting, Polynesian music, dance, painting, constume design, screen writing and film.
Educated at Auckland Boys Grammar and the University of Auckland, Samuelu majored in Film, TV and Media and minored in Anthropology Pacific Studies. He then went on to a post-graduate diploma of Digital Media in communications studies at Auckland University of Technology where he was able to hone his skills in the area of film making.
Getting the Creativity Award and working at Weta is literally a dream come true.
In his own words - "Here I've been given the chance to work with the absolute best. The chance for me to immesrse myself in that world is absolutely brilliant".

2010 Leadership Award winner: J'aime Laurenson

J'aime Laurenson (24) from Manukau is an outstanding role model for students currently studying Engineering and Law at the University of Auckland. Having graduated with first class honours in both Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Laws, he is the first student to ever reach this level of achievement at the University of Auckland. He will be using his award for either a Masters or PhD in engineering.
A school prefect at Auckland Grammar, J'aime was named in 2003 Bursaries Top All-round Male Pacific Island Scholar and received a number of school, university and national scholarships.

J'aime is a past president at the University of Auckland South Pacific Indigeneous Engineering Students (SPIES) support network for Maori and Pacific people and is currently employed by the Faculty of Engineering on a part-time basis organising tutorial needs and mentor-mentee arrangements with the faculty.
J'aime and his family are active in the Samoan community in New Zealand and Samoa.
In the words of J'aime - "The award will help me to pursue my post-graduate qualifications and I'll be one of the very few Pacific Islanders in that field of study (mechatronics - mechanical and electrical engineering). I can help and encourage Pacific people to consider opportunities and careers they wouldn't think possible and also being an increase the amount of Pacific people in that area. There's a shortage of them in our society. Most are encouraged to take law, medicine and don't appreciate engineering."

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