15/12/2018, Beenleigh, Brisbane. I went along to a public meeting organized by one of the Niuean community groups operating here named NACQ (Niue Advisory Council of Queensland).
NACQ, an incorporated society and therefore subject to stringent laws, have been around for three years now and have been known to be one of several Niuean associations operating locally.
Following the meeting with the Premier of Niue several weeks ago, which was organized by NACQ together with the local churches Beenleigh Niue and Ekklesia Niue, it was decided that they need another community consultation, to organize events including the Constitution event for Brisbane for 2019.
It may be important to disclose that my wife was present at this meeting to take the minutes and that we have friends and extended families in the NACQ committee. So while I will attempt to report objectively, I am fully aware of the possibility of my reporting being tainted, by these associations.
After everyone was assembled, the meeting was then started with a short introduction from Ikitama Tongamana, the current President of NACQ. The meeting was blessed with a prayer by Reverend Elisi Sionetali before Ipolito Sakalia (Chairperson) welcomed the participants and tabled the apologies from those who have expressed an interest but have been unable to attend.
Kau Taleni then introduced himself as one of the leaders of the North Side Community (which included Ekklesia Niue) before tabling the apologies from his Team that included Ua, Togia and Reverend George Sionetuato.
Ikitama introduced himself again and set the order of the meeting before handing it back to the Chairperson.
On the agenda was a list of items as follows:-
- Feedback from meeting with the Premier.
- Formation of Committee for the discussion and planning of Niue events.
- 2019 Pule Fakamotu celebrations – Planning for the Event.
- General discussion/feedback.
The general consensus regarding the Premier’s meeting seems to be that the night was successful even if the turnout could have been much higher. One of the participants apologised that due to his commitments he was unable to attend but he heard positive feedback from those who did and from the pictures/posts published online. He talked about the need to unite while leaving aside the troublemakers. He said “it is time to start doing things like educated people and to put into action, what we have learned from our parents and ancestors.”
Kau Taleni noted that it was encouraging to see that many Niueans turning up and to see them helping out with the food.
Fearing that the daggers might be out, Ikitama again made the point that the meeting is not to remove the ability of other community groups to operate nor to recruit new members at those groups’ expenses. “This is mainly to inform people about our plans for 2019 and if they want to be a part, good. If not, that’s also okay. It’s all voluntary – we are not forcing anyone.”
I thought “maybe that’s a good thing (poaching members from other groups) – do it, do it, do it Ikitama… you are the man if you do….” ;-).
He mentioned that one of the visions for NACQ is to facilitate the communication of Niueans here in Brisbane and the Niue Government. “The Premier has agreed for the NZ High Commissioner to come here for the Pule Fakamotu (Constitution) next year (2019), and therefore one of the main reasons for this meeting is to find people willing to plan and organize this event.”
Before moving on to the next agenda item, two participants asked the question around the people running NACQ, specifically about who they are. At the end of this post is some information regarding the structure of NACQ.
Ikitama introduced himself again, as the President of the group, then asked the meeting that if they are on Facebook, they can access all their records on their Facebook Page “Niue Advisory Council of Queensland Incorporated Society”.
The second item on scheduling Niue events attracted the most questions. Participants were unclear about what the meeting is proposing and a few of them spoke of the need to communicate more with the wider community.
Someone spoke about the need to attract and target Niueans who are not easily accessible.
Another spoke about her experience as a social worker and that she thinks that the Niueans are doing poorly in their community work compared to other Pacific communities. She thinks that things have actually gone from good to bad to worse.
That took some balls I thought, always good to be direct in these meetings…. Maybe, Niueans do need to hear it straight. But any proof…? Should have asked – bugger, too late now….
The same participant suggested the idea of combining with another association as that may help attract more Niueans to encourage participation and/or reduce the work required. I didn’t hear the Chairperson or anyone answering the question, so I take it that it was a no.
One of the Youth representatives spoke about his desire to see more young people getting involved and turning up to meetings. Being active in his church, every time he had an opportunity to speak at gatherings he is always advocating for the youth. Quiet but firm, he spoke of the need to teach our children the culture.
There were questions around the impact of the proposed committee/group on the ability of other groups to continue their own work; questions around the impact on funding; questions around whether this group have got the right to represent the whole community of Niueans living here and so forth.
A lot of the questions could have been handled outside the meeting or through another medium though if it were up to me to answer… I probably would have said something like “yes, no” or “yes, nah.”
I am joking of course but to be fair, every participant does deserve to be heard, even if what they say, isn’t necessarily what NACQ wants to hear.
Based on observations and the rumours currently circulating, we still have quite a way to go before we can attempt to tackle bigger multi-million dollar projects. This is not a criticism of Niueans who are involved with this meeting.
I have not been involved in anything to do with Niueans before so it would be unfair to pass judgements but if we are to be serious about running community groups that actually contribute something meaningful to the lives of Niueans and the wider Pacific Islands community, then we need to lift our game, by a lot.
Before the closing prayer Reverend Sionetali spoke quite strongly about the need to unite and that it’s not a bad thing to work together under one big umbrella (which I took to mean NACQ). He said this work is not new, a lot of people have tried to achieve the same goals but he feared that we are not united (“mahehe”) and it doesn’t help when we go online to vent.
“Facebook and social media are tools made for the palagi so maybe, we should not share too much online and if that’s too hard, stay away from social media.”
He said, “some of you took it upon yourselves to create the groups for the Vagahau Niue and yet – you have no idea how to speak the Vagahau Niue.”
I thought “go Rev – shame on those people…”
After the closing prayer, I found myself contemplating…. if this was all a waste of time.
But after seeing some Niuean friends and families, I was glad I attended. Seeing children and our elders there reminded me of the need to give something back to our communities and for the generations coming after us. As one participant said – “these are our young people, they will be carrying the name of Niue in many decades to come.”
While I was disappointed at the turnout and that the meeting didn’t cover all the agenda, I sincerely hope that this is going to be a start of something bigger and better. In the end, an agreement was reached to have another meeting after Christmas and for the Organizers to reach out to more Niuean people living here.
One of the highlights was meeting Averil Togiavalu, a Powerlifter from Niue who came to compete at the Oceania Powerlifting competition. The Powerlifters and their coach Alan Tano, won 5 gold medals and a silver and bronze. YIPEEE!!!! Poini put out a hat for donations for their Team and I think around $370 was raised. We wish Averil, Maxine and Tano every success for future competitions.
Here is some more information on NACQ:-
NACQ MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
– Ikitama L Tongamana.
– Rev George Sionetuato.
– Gia Puhotau, France Taleni (Vice).
– Maxine Makavilitogia, Lynley Leilona.
– Kau Taleni
– Ipolito Sakalia
– Mel L Taylor (Advisor)
You can contact them via their Facebook Page here –
Information on any incorporated society in Queensland (QLD) can be found using the link below. Anyone can request information including reports, constitutions and so forth (for a small fee).
You can also use the Search button on the following link to find out how many incorporated societies are currently operating in QLD. The last time I checked there are 10 such organisations using the word “Niue” in any part of their names. Those that are not named using the word “Niue” will not show up of course. There are probably many other ways to search (e.g. – by number) so have a play.