Fōfō’anga celebrates 40th anniversary in Auckland

Fōfō’anga o Aotearoa gather along with the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Hon Aupito Tofae Su’a William Sio following a service to celebrate their anniversary at the United Church of Tonga, Grey Lynn, 18 February 2018

One of the country’s oldest Tongan cultural groups has celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special celebration in Auckland.  The Fōfō’anga ‘o Aotearoa club was established in Auckland from Tonga, in 1978 to give Tongan men an opportunity to gather on a social basis and has since spread around the country and the world.  The club has become a hub for Tongan migrants, who meet once a week to discuss various topics, share their problems and more importantly, help each other out where possible.

Club Secretary Mausa Lavulo says the Club has provided an important place for Tongans to connect, treasure and preserve their culture, traditions, language and music.  Mr Lavulo says the Club even pioneered a new style of more westernised Tongan music which saw members perform on radio and television and record five albums with the legendary steel guitarist Bill Wolfgramm, titled Pōtatala. The group continues to perform and record.

Mr Lavulo says he grew up going to the Club and now a new generation is coming through.  “It’s wonderful to see members’ sons who were born in New Zealand developing within the club and growing up in their culture – it’s a place to go where they can feel like Tongans.”

The club has always had a strong commitment to youth development. From the 1980s onwards, the club focussed heavily on assisting with costs for Tongan tertiary students and their families, as well as church ministers in training.  Auckland Fōfō’anga Club founder, the late Saimone Koloamatangi, believed that a crucial mission of the club was to help other Tongans here in New Zealand.

This mission aligned with the rationale behind many Pasifika peoples’ decision to leave their island homes and migrate to New Zealand – in order to give their children more opportunity for a better education.

In the 1990s, the club also set up a study centre, where members’ children were able to receive assistance with homework and tutorials were held for high school and tertiary students. Currently, three centres are running in south, east and central Auckland, with close to 80 students.  Mr Lavulo says the tutors are tertiary students and graduates from families who have been part of the club since its inception.

The club has also developed a strong relationship with Massey University raising funds for the Pasifika Excellence Awards. Seven awards are given out at the University’s Pasifika Graduation Celebrations on its three campuses in Albany, Manawatū and Wellington to students who have demonstrated commitment to the Pasifika community while maintaining academic excellence. The Club also supported Massey’s Tālanga Fakafonua event in Tonga last year, to encourage dialogue about the country’s political reform process.

Mr Lavulo says the spirit of supporting others is very strong within the club. “Even though some members may be experiencing hardship themselves they still believe that in helping others, they’re helping themselves as well and we have set up a collection of non-perishable food for the Auckland City Mission”.

It is in the same spirit that the Fōfō’anga hopes to continue into the future, by taking advantage of more opportunities to help each other and the wider community out. The club celebrated its 40th anniversary on 18 February 2018.

– Press Release

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