Creating meaningful change for Pacific people
Whitireia social work graduate, Rosalie Maiava-Zajkowski, sees the representation of Pacific people in government spaces as key to creating meaningful and lasting positive change for Pacific people in New Zealand, and across the moana.
Pacific people are underrepresented within governance roles in the public sector and an estimation that less than 1% of chief executive, general manager and legislator roles are occupied by Pacific people in government.*
As the first step to being part of this representation, Rosalie has completed her Bachelor of Social Work at Whitireia with the aim of using her skills to support the Samoan and wider Pacific communities in New Zealand.
During her degree, Rosalie was supported by Whitireia staff in her application to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Policy programme. Becoming the first student from a community tertiary institution to be accepted, and to complete two internships, where she was placed at the Ministry for Women, and the Ministry for Social Development.
Rosalie also completed two placements as a course requirement at Te Whare Tiaki Wāhine Refuge and NZ Police Family Harm Unit.
It was this experience working in government that made her realise that she could make a difference to her community with social work in more ways than she originally thought.
“I studied social work so that I could learn the skills to help provide support to my community from the ground up, but in the process I realised that to make real and lasting change, we need to have people working at all levels.”
“I want to help shape the way that decisions are made at a systemic level, and to be visible so that Pasifika can see that we are being represented and heard. I am starting a new position at the Royal Commission of Inquiry - Abuse in Care, as my next step in that direction.”
Rosalie comes from a long line of strong matriarchal figures. On her Mother’s side, she is descendant of Samoan orators and her Father’s are Polish war refugees. It is this background that has helped to shape the way Rosalie looks at the world and her place in it.
“My Mother and Grandmother played a huge role in my upbringing,” explains Rosalie. “They really instilled in me the importance of all Samoan values, but especially that of Tautua - or service - and giving back to the community.”
“I grew up in Wellington but have gone back home to Samoa quite regularly,” says Rosalie. “Going back always keeps me grounded and reminds me of all the sacrifices that my family and community have made to help get me to where I am.”
Rosalie celebrated with her fellow Pacific graduates at the Whitireia and WelTec Falarazzi in March. It was an opportunity for Pacific students to celebrate graduating with their culture on full display.
“It was really exciting to celebrate at the Falarazzi 2021. It was an opportunity to thank my aiga - family and friends for all of their support throughout my studies. They sacrificed a lot to get me here, so this is as much their achievement as it is mine.
“I have been blessed to celebrate family at two previous Falarazzi. Everyone who attends gets dressed up in colourful garments to represent their unique cultural heritage. It is a proud moment, not just for the graduates, but for our families who have come from across the moana and dreamed of these opportunities for us. It really is a joyful celebration. I can’t wait!”