Paediatrician Dr Teuila Percival heads the list of Pacific recipients in the New Zealand King’s Birthday Honours List for 2023.
Dr Percival is one of at least 15 Pasifika people in New Zealand who are on the list. She is to be a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health and the Pacific community.
For the past three decades she has been a strong advocate for Pacific children’s health in New Zealand and the Pacific.
Dr Percival said she felt honoured to get the award after getting over the initial surprise.
“I think it’s important for Pacific people to be recognised in the work they do, so it’s really nice in that respect,” she said.
“It’s just a great job, I love working with kids. I think children are the most important thing.”
Dr Percival was a founding member of South Seas Healthcare, a community health service for Pacific people in Auckland since 1999.
She has also been deployed to Pacific nations after natural disasters like to Samoa in 2009 after the tsunami and to Vanuatu in 2015 following cyclone Pam.
Sacred Heart school counsellor Nua Silipa is to be an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Pacific education.
Silipa said her experience struggling in the education system after immigrating from Samoa in 1962 had motivated her to help Pacific people in the classroom.
“When I look back now I think my journey was so hard as a minority in Christchurch,” Silipa said.
“It was a struggle because we weren’t in the classroom, the resources at that time were Janet and John . . . so as a learner I really struggled.”
She said the “whole experience of underachievement” motivated her to help “people who are different in the system”.
“It’s not a one size fits all in education.”
Nua Silipa said she felt humbled to be a recipient on the King’s Birthday Honours List.
She said the award also honoured the people who had been involved in improving education for Pasifika.
“I know there’s so, so many other people who are doing work quietly every day, helping our communities and I’m really in awe of them.
“There are many unsung heroes out in our community doing work for our people.”
Mary Aue is to be a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to education, technology and Pacific and Māori communities.
Mary Aue is to be a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to education, technology and Pacific and Māori communities Photo: Supplied
In 1999, she launched Coconut Wireless as an e-newsletter for Pasifika reaching 10,000 subscribers. It relaunched in 2014 as a social media platform and now has over 300,000 Facebook followers.
“There was a disconnect between community and government agencies and there was a disconnect between our communities,” she said.
“There was no communication back then, so I created an e-newsletter.”
The name Coconut Wireless was based on the island concept as a fast way of communicating through word of mouth.
Aue has also been an advocate for more Pacific and Māori learners in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).
Aue said she was originally going to decline the award as there were a lot of people in the community who do not get recognised behind the scenes.
“I have to thank my family, my friends and the amazing community that we’re all part of.”
Teremoana Maua-Hodges said she “just about choked” on her cup of tea when she found out she had received the Queen’s Service Medal.
Maua-Hodges has been given the award for her contribution to sport and culture.
She said the award was the work of many people — including her parents — who travelled to New Zealand from the Cook Islands when she was a child.
“I’m very humbled by the award, but it’s not just me,” Maua-Hodges said.
“I stand on the shoulders of different heroes and heroines of our people in the community.
“It’s not my award, it’s our award.”
Maua-Hodges said the most important thing she had done was connect Cook Islanders.
“Uniting Cook Islanders who have come over from different islands in the Cook Islands and then to come here and be united here within their diversity makes me very proud.
“They’ve taken on the whole culture of Aotearoa but still as Cook Islanders . . . to show their voice, to show their flag, in the land of milk and honey.”
The Queen’s Service Medal will be renamed the King’s Service Medal once the necessary processes are done, and the updated Royal Warrant is approved by King Charles.
Pasifika recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for 2022:
Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit: Dr Teuila Mary Percival — for services to health and the Pacific community.
Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit: Nua Semuā Silipa — for services to Pacific education.
Honorary Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit: Meleane Pau’uvale — for services to the Tongan community and education.
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit:
Mary Puatuki Aue — for services to education, technology and Pacific and Māori communities.
Dr Ofanaite Ana Dewes — for services to health and the Pacific community.
Fa’atili Iosua Esera — for services to Pacific education.
Dr Siale Alokihakau Foliaki — for services to mental health and the Pacific community.
Keni Upokotea Moeroa — for services to the Cook Islands community.
Talalelei Senetenari Taufale — for services to Pacific health.
Dr Semisi Pouvalu Taumoepeau — for services to education and tourism.
Honorary Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit: Fa’amoana Ioane Luafutu — for services to arts and the Pacific community.
Queen’s Service Medal:
Joseph Davis — for services to the Fijian community.
Reverend Alofa Ta’ase Lale — for services to the community.
Teremoana Maua-Hodges — for services to sport and culture.
Putiani Upoko — for services to the Pacific community.