While the people we spoke to shared many challenges they face as Pacific Islanders, they also talked about the strengths of Pacific culture that have benefitted their careers and businesses.
For example, people said that being respectful and humble can help to build positive relationships at work.
In addition, when establishing your own business, ‘Pacific hospitality’ can differentiate it from other non-Pacific businesses.
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I think this is something as Pacific Islanders, we’re good at. It’s that relationship stuff. We’re all about relationships and how you build them and how you create them and foster them, I think and that was a big thing for me. I developed a lot of really positive relationships and I think, becoming a prefect made me realise that the leadership kind of part of my identity, had really had kicked off.
I think…the only thing I would say is that maybe we don’t speak positively enough about ourselves. Maybe we…because it doesn’t happen. We’re not taught that that’s a good thing. And I’m not saying be arrogant but it’s okay to let some positive thinking in sometimes. You might be good at something. I’m not saying tell everyone that you know but it’s okay to speak confidently about yourself as well.
I truly believe that us Pacific Islanders, we have the upper hand in a lot of soft skills. Our ability to communicate with people is stemmed from the way that we were taught to communicate to our elders. We’re taught respect from such a young age, and I’m not even joking. This is such a core quality to have, especially when you’re in the workforce. I’ve benefited from it in my current roles, especially in corporate, I’m able to get job opportunities and job promotions, salary increases, projects given to me, because of my relationship-building ability. And those relationship-building characteristics are really from the way that we were taught from our parents. We’re taught to respect our colleagues and just our managers and senior levels of management.
We’re taught to be humble and just to do the hard work. We are taught to work with our hands, and actually work really hard, and do things properly and actually do it with love. And I believe that that’s a core skill that we need, and it’s a core skill that is really highly regarded, especially in the professional workforce. And these are skills that we’re taught that are innate to us, especially as Pacific Islanders, even just the characteristic of being humble. I believe being humble will get you so far, especially through your professional life, being humble, just doing the groundwork first, like being okay just to do the work where you’ve got to get your hands dirty. Everyone has to do it.
And I believe that because, even me being a Pacific Islander, I was okay to get my hands dirty. Sometimes I do things that are below my pay grade, but that doesn’t discount my role in what I am and what I’m worth. And I believe those characteristics, and your initiative to want to do it just really shows, I guess, how much you value your role, how much you are valued by others in your organisation. And that’s through those attributes of being humble, being respectful, being resilient, being able to communicate, and being able to listen. And just talk to other people as humans, and not talk to them as if there’s a disconnection.
So really embrace those characteristics, especially as a Pacific Islander. I’ve benefitted from them professionally in my work life, and I know that you can too, and I really believe that they’re skills that you already have now, that you’re probably not even used to using, but I can guarantee you that in the future, you will be using them, and you’ll be using them to your advantage, and you’ll be able to use them in ways to change and actually contribute to future-making decisions.
And because we, us as Pasifika people we know how to talk to and find out why they’re upset and fix the problem instead of us just flicking her off and not wanting to come back, we were just like, “We’re sorry that we did this, how can we make it better?” And we did that. And now she’s probably one of our closest friends now.
A lot of the clients in Port Melbourne, because they’re all used to going to salons they’re all used to a certain salon etiquette, where when they came into LashFix because we had, one of our pushing factors was our urban Pacific hospitality. When they came into our salon, they were shocked that it wasn’t what they were used to and that sort of thing. What Venna was saying about our client where we’re going to her house on Saturday, and then there was other a few times where I dropped off our client because it was-
Raining. I think she was in her 60s.
Yeah. It was bad rain, raining. It’s like, “Would let your Mum walk down the street in that rain?” And I was like, “No.” And she was like, we’re a business, what kind of business do you know that would drop you, their customer home?
Venna’s like, “My sister will take you,” and she’s like, “No, no, no.” And I was like, “I’m already outside, tell her to come out. I’ve got the car running, she doesn’t have to be in the rain.” Then she was like, “Oh, okay.” [laughing]
Yeah. So we did that kind…that sort of stuff was normal to us as Pasifika people. And they were just like, “What the heck? Why would you do that?” But it’s like, “Why would we let you walk in the rain? If somebody is free?”
Or we would just being like, “We’ll we’re going to somehow make somebody free so that they can go and do that.” I think we did a lot of these things not, it wasn’t an intention. It wasn’t-
It was natural.
– this was the plan to get people to like us. This is just what we, as Pasifika people do naturally. And that’s what we brought into our business.
I notice, particularly in recent years, more so not a stress head, and I think that is also a lot to do with the saying of Pacific Islanders, “Well, we can do it the Pacific way and just do it tomorrow.” It’s not like we’re…it’s kind of like Island mentality where it’s like, “Yeah, yeah, it’s going to be done. It’s going to be done on Island time.” So people will be stressing out in the meeting and I’ll just be like, “Mm-hmm, yep.” And they’ll just be like, “Elvina, why aren’t you stressed? The client wants this.” And I’m like, “It’s going to be done, no point of stressing about it.” And it’s a weird kind of…I’ve only, in recent years where my managers are like, “Oh, you’re kind of a little bit laid back when it comes to big stressful moments. Why is that?”
And it’s kind of like, “Oh, I didn’t even pick up on it.” But now I’m like, “Oh, that’s just the way we are, I think,” which can be a good thing in times of stress where we’re like, “Oh yeah, I’m not going to stress about it because worrying is not going to help. I’ll get to it when I get to it.” I think that’s been really helpful part of the culture, which I thought, “Oh yeah, I think this is a Tongan approach or a Pacific approach.”
But never shy away from identity and bring it in. It is the way that differentiates you. For me, I found that that’s the way that differentiates me. I have an experience of a woman of colour, a Pacific Island background. I have ancestors coming at me left, right and centre with all of this advice that I’ve been born into that I can’t even hide away from it anymore. So I would say that that is always a strength, always. And if someone doesn’t see it as a strength, then they’re wrong. I can’t express that enough. I think once you understand that that’s a strength and that being Pacific Islander is a super power, then you’ll always move in the right direction.
Support during primary and high school
- Peers and friends as a source of support at school
- Support from parents during schooling (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Support from teachers and schools
- Transition from school to post-school education (Part 1 & Part 2)
Experiences of post-secondary education and training
- Experiences of university
- University journeys: Interruptions and finding one’s direction
- Diverse pathways towards university
- Experiences of TAFE
- Short courses and on-the-job training
- Early aspirations and current occupation
- Talking about future aspirations with family members
- Networks of family and friends
- Be proactive and seize unexpected opportunities
- Creating opportunities: Volunteering
Experiences of Work
- Benefits of being a Pacific Islander at work
- Engaging with Pacific community members through work (Part 1 & Part 2)
- Navigating family and career
- Future aspirations
Reflections and advice to young Pacific People
- ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
- Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
- Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
- Ashirah – University student
- Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
- Chris – Field Officer (HR)
- Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
- Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
- David – App company CEO
- Elisabeth – Teacher
- Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
- Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
- Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
- Leki – Physiotherapist
- Luisa – Registered Nurse
- Malelega – Legal Assistant
- Marita – Writer
- Rose – Workplace Consultant
- Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
- Semisi – Lawyer
- Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
- Teisa – Medical Doctor
- Tevita – IT Professional
- Thom – Make-up Artist
- Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer