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Young alumni

Josiah Tualamali'i

24 July 2023

BA Political Science and International Relations 2019

Equity and Wellbeing Activator


Studying towards a degree is not always a linear experience – what was your motivation to study at UC, and what kept you going along the way?
I came to UC for a couple of reasons I love learning and while at school I had a few special teachers who nurtured my writing and critical thinking. I always hoped to go to uni, but the main reason I stayed in Christchurch and came here to UC was I felt connected to UC, and that this uni was part of my Pacific community. When I was 14 I was part of the first PYLAT Pacific Youth Parliament (PYP). The orientation days were here at UC, and many of the older students in the programme were students and staff at UC who supported it. So for 4 years before I came I felt connected to this space.

Your work, since you were young, has covered huge scope and breadth - can you tell us what you are up to at the moment?
Fa’afetai that encouragement means a lot, and I would like to acknowledge a couple of people who here at UC have supported that, the first being the many people who have served in the Pacific Development team until today, Andrea who was my psychologist at UC Health for a number of years, and Professor Brownyn Hayward, Katie Pickles and Ekant Veer – all who have supported me to be me as a totolua person (blessed with two bloods) Samoan, and pākehā. To bring what I have learnt and been part of in our community to what is happening at UC, my assignments, including being able to complete these around cultural responsibilities and my wellbeing.
Last semester I started my postgrad journey and did chunk number one with Professor Katie learning more about our New Zealand histories – please do the kiwi culture and NZ history courses Katie leads, we need more grounding in the decisions we in all areas engineering, law, business, everywhere about what shapes why we think what we think, and being sure that the myths are unpicked and we can be clear around topics such as New Zealand being a Pacific country and what responsibilities come with that. Connected to this have been part of the community team who through tautoko of a call from our Pacific matua the Polynesian Panthers Claw, successfully achieved an apology for the Dawn Raids. And outside of that I’m still on our PYLAT (Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation) board growing opportunities for Pacific young people to participate in democracy and I am a company director on 5 other boards across Pacific peoples wellbeing, mental wellbeing, community funding and foreign affairs.

How did you become involved in advocacy and governance?
A school and in community I had been encouraged into some leadership roles but the community governance started with PYLAT and being part of the first PYP. This moment to think about who makes decisions and how they were made as well as mentoring into this by my community to keep participating in this space meant a lot. The next area was our PYLAT team supported me to become Chair at 18 and with that opportunity to lead a trust board, it has just kept growing.

Young people, especially Māori and Pasifika youth, are rightfully claiming their seats at the table – what advice do you give to those who are wanting to get involved in community work? Where do they start?
In my work with a global review on depression (Lancet Commission), and also support for UNICEF global, I continue to hear and see decision-makers talk about how if we keep having global biases towards Western medicines, and evidence and biases towards adult’s voices, we miss out on all the opportunities and insights that our world can learn from. To Māori and Pasifika youth, our cultural ways of knowing and being are so rich and bring ways for our communities, our country and our world to be more inclusive and better prepared for when 50% of Aotearoa will be Māori, Pasifika and Asian by 2038. Let's shape Aotearoa and the world in such a way that enables better wellbeing for our communities, and ultimately everyone.

Where we can start, is where we are, and using the tools we have today. Inputting our ideas, sharing our experiences and insights where we study, work, and with decision-makers, and being prepared to join in with others. A lot of people don’t know but if want to let decision-makers like Councillors or MP’s know something write to them, or find their phone number and call their office. Last year I was getting frustrated that all the evidence we are seeing that we need more done to limit over promotion of alcohol to children and young people. I sent one letter with key national and global evidence and Councillors at Environment Canterbury got rid of alcohol advertising on busses. Sometimes it takes working in groups to raise an issue, but literally it’s been learning what systems enable, and drawing on that.


Check out Josiah Tualamali'i, one of our Champions for Change profiles in our 150th Alumni Showcase here.

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