International Family Day – People of the Sea

In New Zealand, like other western countries, family (or family nucleus) is defined as “a couple, with or without child(ren), or one parent and their child(ren), all of whom have usual residence together in the same household.

As a daughter of the Pacific, the above definition of family was foreign to me.. Our belonging was tied to our kainga (Tongan), ainga (Samoan) or whanaungatanga (Aotearoa New Zealand).  We moved, grew supported and passed on knowledge as a collective and our role within our respective island nations was to be custodians to our ancestral lands, the sea, the sky and nature.  As children of the moana, everyone is interconnected, everyone belongs.  We were and are kin and our shared common value built and maintained on vā – nurturing the reciprocal relationships across generations.

This year, I put my hand up to write a blog for International Family Day. I did what most people writing a blog does, I took to google to find out what the theme was and learned that this year, the focus is on “Families and Climate Action.” Simon Butler (2014) writes:

One of the most frightful ironies of climate change is that it will wreak the most havoc on the people who have done the least to cause it. Pacific Island nations are in the climate frontlines — affected by rising oceans, coastal erosion and extreme weather… And that raises a whole lot of concerns for people about their identity and their culture. As Pacific people, so much of our culture and identity is tied to the land. That’s the ultimate price our people would pay for climate change: to lose our land.”  

I also took to google, to find images using the key words “climate change and Pacific”, these are two public images I found.  One a reminder of the fight we have in us as Pacific people “we are not drowning, we are fighting.” The other a plea from a young boy “To the rest of the world, please could you prepare a place for my country to stay.´

When you’re reminded that a safe, secure, stable home is fundamental for the development of our children this picture is devastating.  If it takes a village to raise a child, we can no longer be bystanders to an issue that effect our kin.  International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to our families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them.  Climate change is real, we see it in our headlines, we see it in our home islands nations with the increasing amount of natural disasters that hits the Pacific, we see it with our Pacific brothers and sisters who carry the trauma of watching their homes sink, and relocation as climate refuges.   

So, as you ponder on the significance of this International Family Day

I encourage a call to action,  As kainga/aiga of the Pacific, we have a collective responsibility as a “family” to continue to advocate and hold governments, agencies and communities accountable to the delivery of:

  •  SDG 13 target 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning; AND
  • SDG 13 target 13.2: integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning

As a Pacific Global Whanau – it’s everyone’s responsibility.



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