By Tamara Christie-Siaosi, Tāmaki-Makaurau
Five weeks ago I got a new job at Department of Conservation (DOC). I naturally shared the wonderful news with my family and friends.
Their response: “Congrats sis… what’s that?”
The idea that my inner circle, born and bred in South Auckland, didn’t know about DOC is (begrudgingly) understandable.
Does the majority of the South Auckland Pacific community know what DOC is? Probably not. However, a lack of awareness of this entity does not necessarily mean that our South Auckland Pacific community has a lack of awareness of ‘conservation’.
Being raised in a Māori-Pacific family in South Auckland, our ways of connecting to nature and conservation looked a bit different to what I saw in mainstream media.
Surrounded by my siblings and cousins at our grandparent’s house, our way of connecting to nature and conservation was weekly gardening. Our weekends and school holidays consisted of helping our beautiful Grandmother bring to life her frangipanis and rose bushes, snipping away at the branches of her orange and feijoa trees, and helping our Grandfather sweep away the leaves on the long driveway.
Walking through Papakura and Manurewa town centres, picking up rubbish a lazy passer-by left behind was my way of giving back. Going to the Hunua ranges, sitting down, and having lunch, or walking home from school and taking the long way home through Kirk’s Bush was my closest experience to the ‘outdoors’.
Sunday gatherings at Maraetai were my Auckland experience of the moana, and visits to our local parks were a way to catch up with our friends and cousins that lived down the street. Of course, we left behind nothing that wasn’t supposed to be there.
I remember going back home to the islands for the first time staying in my Grandfather’s village Faleasiu. I was blown away by the amount of care the people of Samoa had for their homes. There were perfectly maintained backyards, gardens trimmed to perfection and every single house member was outside cleaning. My cousins would wake up in the early hours of the morning to tend to the fields beyond, whacking overgrown shrubs with a machete in the sweltering heat. This was everyday life in the islands.
I realised that the island way of life, was my way of life in the small town of Papakura. Nature, conservation, and the opportunity to provide went hand in hand.
Like many of my peers I never got to experience tramping in a far-off island, early morning snowfall or boating to see majestic marine animals,but were my experiences any less? No, they were not.
We are a vast and diverse community of heroes, and we are everywhere if you take the time to look.
We are people that have been taught that laueleele (land) is an older sibling that demands respect. We are people that believe that the first step takes place in our own backyard, and then the rest will follow.
In the words of Samoa’s previous head of state, Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Efi:
“Human life is equivalent and complimentary to cosmic, plant and animal life. In the balance of life, all living things share equal status and power. Man is no less powerful or greater than the heavens, the trees, the fish or cattle, and vice versa.”
Mālō le soifua i le paia ma lemamalu maua mai le lagi e mamā
O lo’u igoa o Tamara Mele Christie-Siaosi
Ou te sau mai le nu’u o Faleapuna, Falefa, Faleasiu ma Utuali’i i Samoa
Ae a fo’i, ou te sau mai le nu’u o Te Aupouri i Niu Sila
Sa tupu ai i Papakura i Aukalani
Talofa, talofa lava.
Nature in your own backyard
Find some easy, practical activities for getting outdoors with your family and spending time in nature while at home: doc.govt.nz/familyactivities
Mara! I loved reading this. What a beautiful piece! Your grandparents are beaming down on you with so much pride and love Mara!
beautifully written. You are truly Gaia’s ambassador to foreigners, and she is so proud of your representations. – Peter
Thoroughly enjoyed the experiences you have shared Tamara.The factor that shines through is that respect for the environnent in terms of Samoa culture is not just limited to a Governmental Department but is interwoven in the everyday fabric of life.So much so that the practices in Samoa are continued in the streets of South Auckland.A reminder of the homes so many left behind.