With all eyes on the Pacific region as Penny Wong and representatives from China undertake their diplomatic visits, it is important that the new Australian government also focuses its attention on how it engages with and treats the Pacific family here at home.
Pacific people are a growing and thriving population in Australia, and have played an integral role in supporting our economic growth and wellbeing.
This includes our involvement in rural and regional Australia, in agriculture and mining, as well as our positive contribution to sports like rugby league and union, alongside our rich involvement within the visual and performing arts sectors.
However, we are grossly overrepresented across youth justice spaces, and have higher rates of health conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We have lower rates of engagement in higher education, and generally take up precarious employment in low-skilled labour while living in crowded homes with a larger number of family members within low socioeconomic areas.
Despite these challenges, Pacific people in Australia are still inextricably connected to their families and wider community back in the Islands. We are actively involved in the daily lives of our community by sending financial remittances for everyday expenses like food and accommodation, and to support educational and employment opportunities.
This gives Australia a direct connection with our Pacific families back home.
The family connections help Pacific countries to view Australia as a true ally and neighbour within Oceania, rather than an entity that has previously neglected and abused its role and responsibilities to regional cooperation and genuine collaboration.
We've been maligned by Morrison's dismissive views about climate change and policy inaction. The new federal Opposition Leader has also perpetuated skewed views on the region with disparaging comments about water lapping at our doors.
Pacific countries have been treated by previous Australian governments as a plaything - with a paternalistic view to control based on Westernised and white views, ideals, perspectives and practices.
We need to proactively bolster genuine and real relationships in the Pacific with a view that an investment in the diaspora will also greatly help mobilise regional relationships
Across our Pacific community, we use an approach called talanoa - which is all about holding and sharing space to talk about anything and everything. Through a talanoa, everyone is involved in sharing their views and values towards a shared and collective outcome. Our desire is to ensure that everyone is included.
Pacific people in Australia - including the Core Pacific Collective (CPC) that has helped mobilise support around COVID-19 for Pacific people in Australia - are keen to build this shared approach, to ensure funding sourced domestically for local initiatives around health and wellbeing also supports our families in the Islands.
Resources that are designed and developed here in Australia with the Pacific diaspora can and have been shared and adapted throughout the region. Such resources are nuanced by our own Pacific perspectives, and practise views and ideals that promote enhanced engagement and sustainable outcomes.
Our warm invitation to those in power, including Penny Wong, is to come and talanoa with Pacific people here in Australia, to create a collaborative, collegial and collective conversation that is family and regionally driven and nuanced.
By bringing Pacific people into this evolving Pacific partnership, it brings us all up as a country and the Oceania region, together.
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