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Empowering Pasifika Men: Moana Pasifika hosts health summit in collaboration with Pasifika Futures
Updates / News , 22 May 24
Moana Pasifika, in collaboration with Pasifika Futures, recently hosted a men's health summit, bringing together men from all walks of life to engage in talanoa, discussing both mental and physical health. Among the attendees were students from Otahuhu College and Tamaki College.

The summit kicked off with a keynote address by Fa’alogo Tana Umaga, who shared the highs and lows of his rugby career and how these experiences shaped his current role as Coach of the Moana Pasifika Rugby team. Fa’alogo spoke candidly about the mental fortitude required in his early rugby days and the invaluable support system that propelled him toward his dreams.

“I was driven and knew what I wanted to do, but sometimes lacked self-confidence. That’s where my family stepped in and encouraged me. My partner at the time, now my wife, saw me at my best and worst and kept reminding me of the bigger picture.”

Drawing from his playing days, Fa’alogo emphasised the importance of understanding and connecting with his players. 

“It’s crucial to get to know your players as individuals. We all bring something to the table, and together, we can achieve great things.”

He proudly highlighted the predominantly Pacific heritage of Moana Pasifika players, and says: “We are unapologetically proud of who we are and where we come from. As a coach, it’s essential to instil in our players the belief that they are pioneers of their own journey and are capable of great achievements.”

The summit concluded with a panel featuring former professional rugby league international, Nigel Vagana, Mental Health Doctor, Dr Staverton Kautoke, and Moana Pasifika player Solomone Funaki. They stressed the importance of creating safe spaces for Pacific men to discuss their mental health openly.

Vagana spoke on the need for visible Pacific leadership across all areas of sports. 

“When I retired, the NRL offered me a role in education and well-being. Walking into the head office, I realised I was the only Pacific person there. 

“We need people who understand our culture at that level to create culturally appropriate and comfortable environments.”

Funaki echoed this sentiment, recognizing the importance of accessible support services for players. 

“At Moana Pasifika, we’re fortunate to have these services, but as Pacific men, it can be challenging to ask for help.

“As players we can sometimes face a lot of criticism but we can only control what we can control. We try not to look at negative comments online and ensure that we stick together and continue trying to achieve our goals on and off the field.”

Dr. Kautoke offered a clinical perspective, underscoring the significant mental health challenges faced by Pacific communities. 

“We hear slogans like ‘It’s okay not to be okay’ and ‘There is no health without mental health’, but we need to look after our mental health to avoid detrimental effects on our wellbeing.

“Building mental health resilience in our young people is essential. The statistics on mental health for Pacific youth are alarming, and if we don't act, the future is bleak.”

The summit was a powerful reminder of the importance of holistic health, community support, and the unique strengths of Pacific culture in fostering resilience and well-being.