Language: English | Māori

Pasifika community celebrates culture through sport

Whānau and culture is at the heart of the South Island Pasifika Sports Association Inc.

The Association held its annual Pacific Sports Series over the weekend, with rugby league matches being played by generations of Pasifika families.

The Pacific Series’ primary focus is to bring communities together, to build connections, celebrate culture, and provide opportunity for people to strengthen their self-worth, and improve their health and wellbeing.

This year’s event saw 56 teams (8 from out of Canterbury) take part in the event with over 1200 participants and 120 support staff celebrating their culture through rugby league. It is estimated that over 14500 people took part in the open night and the 2-day event.

South Island Pasifika Sports Association Chairman Iosua Tauiti says it was a ‘showcase of culture’.

“Culture and family are the driving causes for us. Sport is a vehicle for bringing families together, and when you have so many families representing different cultures, the game takes on a whole new meaning,” he says.

“There is a higher level of engagement, and it turns into more than just a game. These players are representing their parents, grandparents, and generations of whānau who came to New Zealand to seek a better life for their family.”

He says the Association has been gradually formed over about a decade.

“Before the Association was formally established, we were doing a similar thing in a community framework, off our own backs,” he says.

“We have grown so much. We have people from all different cultures taking part in the Pacific Series now – one of our whānau is half Māori and half Samoan, with a Tongan partner. The couple and their children all took part in the Pacific Series, and they said the best part was being able to  represent all of these amazing cultures.”

The event also has a strong focus on mental wellbeing. In the past the Pacific Series has had the support of organisations such as He Waka Tapu along with the ‘It’s Not OK’ programme.

This year there has been a partnership with Mapu Maia. Also represented at the event was the Trusted Leaders project group, represented by MSD, Health Promotion Agency and Innovation NZ who are working with the rugby league community to better identify how we can support our people under stress.

“Mental wellbeing concerns do exist in our community. There is a high level of suicide, as well as the need to address healthy eating and making healthy choices. The Pacific Series is the perfect platform to bring Pasifika families together to put a focus on these issues and promote community services and health care providers.”

The South Island Pasifika Sports Association Inc. is supported by the Rātā Foundation under the Participate priority area.

For more information on the Association, visit their Facebook page: