Kia ora guys! I’m getting really excited for UC Diversity Week which is coming up in a couple of weeks. The week is all about learning more about the huge diversity of culture and experience we have at UC and talking about ways we can become a more inclusive campus so that everyone feels they really do belong here.
As a warm up to the week, a few students have kindly agreed to share who they are and what they’re in to with this awesome blog over the next few weeks.
So first up, Josiah Tualamali’i, a second year Law, History and Political Science student, tells us a bit more about himself and why feeling like we belong is important…
Hi there my name is Josiah, and I am part Samoan and the student representative on the UC Pasifika Strategy Board and the Promotions Officer of the Samoan students association CUSSA. In these roles, I work with people who are key to ensuring academic, spiritual and pastoral support for Pacific students at UC but more importantly in making sure the university is a place that is empowering, accessible and breaks the barriers for Pacific students to attend and engage fully in all areas at UC.
I went to a conference in the summer on Te Tiriti o Waitangi. During a discussion on having a sense of belonging in Aotearoa one participant of Chinese and European descent said that even though she was born in New Zealand and has lived here all of her life she did not feel like Aotearoa was a place which accepted her. One of the people listening to this conversation tried to tell her that it was her fault that she feel like this saying, “well, it’s what you’ve made of it.” I jumped in here and replied that it is fault of society if someone did not feel that New Zealand was a place of belonging. He began to justify what he had being saying by telling her that she shouldn’t care what society thinks about her. I then said that is not easy and as people we have a desire to be accepted, loved and belong, so, not caring isn’t a solution!
I bring this story up to say that it is vital that all students, especially Pasifika, Māori, learners with special education needs and new students, feel like they belong here at UC, and are valued by our teaching and learning community. It is not good enough for those of us who are comfortable and safe in our friend groups to pass the buck and say it is someone else’s job to help them. A sense of belonging is something we collectively create or impede. If in the story above the group member who responded had instead said something to affirm or support the person in what was a deeply personal discussion, it is possible that this woman would have finally found a place where she felt safe and wanted to belong.
Thus it is crucial that we are people who actively try to comprehend differences between people and not dismiss them, we are after all an institution which is supposed to be the “critic and conscience of society.” Our campus could be the New Zealand leader of all tertiary institutions when it comes to being a campus of people who care about others and ensure together we all have a sense of belonging, but ultimately we all have to want to do it.”
Faafetai tele lava Josiah.
Look out for more Diversity Week information in the coming weeks!