Pacific communities mourn loss of Tongan community leader
Pacific communities are mourning the loss of a senior Tongan leader from South Auckland, who is being described as a passionate advocate.
Pacific communities are mourning the death of a senior Tongan leader from South Auckland, who is being described as a passionate advocate.
Sione Liava'a received a Queen's Service Medal last year for his community work.
He was also a former translator and presenter for Radio New Zealand International.
Mr Liava'a's funeral was held in Auckland on Thursday. He was 70 years old.
The New Zealand Labour Party MP, Su'a William Sio, told Amelia Langford that Mr Liava'a was a lovely man who will be greatly missed.
SU'A WILLIAM SIO: He was a passionate advocate for our communities, and particularly in the areas of education, health and safety. I first knew him back in the 1990s when he participated in some of the earlier community structures set up by the former Manakau City Council. He bridged the divide between Tonga and the Pacific communities and the wider New Zealand community, Maori and Pakeha, et cetera. And he was also one of those people that was genuine and sincere about why he was involved in the community. He wasn't pursuing any positions or trying to satisfy some egotistical need to be recognised. He was doing it because it was important for him and the Pacific communities to provide a contribution to everyday decisions in Aotearoa New Zealand. So he will be sorely missed. He was a compassionate person, he had a silent dignity about himself, but he was also very, very strong and courageous. But never at any time have I ever seen Sione treat people with disrespect. It doesn't matter if he disagreed or agreed with you, he always treated you with respect.
AMELIA LANGFORD: What sort of things did he achieve during his time as an advocate for people?
SWS: He believed that despite our cultural differences and our languages, that we all needed to work together. And so he set a really strong example, that despite his love for his former country of Tonga, he was able to work across cultures and across various sectors in the promotion of community safety. He had a love for Auckland Grammar School, I think it's because his kids went there. In arriving in New Zealand he got involved in the Pacific Island Parents Association, led the charge to show Pacific communities that we've actually got to get involved in the board of trustees. And all of that, his whole life, was sort of the example because of his three adult children, he was very proud of their educational achievements. So by the way he lived his life he set the examples for others to follow - that education was important to get ahead, that it was important for people to look after one another, but also it was important for him that we all looked after one another ensuring that there was community safety. And you'll find in his life, in the various community services that he was involved with, that those three themes become quite prominent.
Sione Liava'a was a member of the Manukau City Safer Community Council and later the Pacific Islands Advisory Committee.
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