Support from teachers and schools

Schools can play a very important role in supporting and encouraging Pacific young people through their educational journeys.

The people we talked to recalled teachers who were particularly caring or took notice of them as individuals and drew attention to their strengths. Others described teachers who made them feel understood or inspired them as ‘Islander’ or migrant background students.

Supportive and accommodating school cultures were also key.


Realising why I like business and why I wanted to do that at uni in high school, was a conversation that I had with my Year 12 business teacher. And, as I was finishing VCE, it was our last few lessons before going into exams. He said something that inspired me and I believe even till today, I still hold that. And he said “Chris, would you like to go to the UK, or go to England?” And I looked at him funny and I said, “Why?” And, then he goes, “Looking at your studies for this year and how you’ve gone through in my subject, in business management. You’ve got that kind of mind that you could do well over there.” And I was like, “Okay, but what do you mean by that?” And, he started saying things like, “Business people in England, they love Aussie businessmen, or up and coming people, so they can bring over there and get them to go through the process of expanding their mind over there in the UK.”

And I thought to myself, “Man. I am an Islander kid, with parents who work out bush, in the farm, how the heck does this guy see something like that in me?” Like, “Eh. Sorry, buddy.” That was quite literally my answer. “Yeah, no. I don’t think that will happen.” And, having strict parents, as in the way, the parents that I grew up with, man, I’d have to run away to the UK, because my parents were like straight, “No.” But, I guess that seed was planted in my life.

And, that seed there, as I’ll continue to share with you, that seed became bigger. And, it started to sprout into a tree that I am still experiencing now in my life where that tree is growing and it’s still growing.


When you were in high school, and you mentioned that there were some Tongan teachers at the time who were teaching particular subjects. How valuable was it to you having access to these services?


Yeah, very valuable. To have those teachers there, not only as a support, but as a…I don’t know how to explain it. They were role models. They were…I don’t even know to explain it. They were breaking the stereotypes by even being teachers at that school. We had a liaison officer there. We had a chaplain there that was Tongan, and two teachers there that were Tongan. That was motivation to see them in those roles. So important to us to see that. So important for us to see that that’s possible.

They are teachers who are Tongan, but they weren’t born here. They were born in Tonga and then they accessed education, and they did the hard yards to get here and become teachers here, become qualified to become teachers here. That is so much harder than us and what’s available to us here. They obviously have a journey. They’ve got a story of their own to tell about how they went through all that.

So for us to see those teachers in the positions that they were in is inspirational, because obviously they’d gone through a lot of barriers to be where they were and continue to be today.


I did…yes, completed year 12 in Robinvale and whilst I was doing my VCE studies, I was in a fortunate position where I was able to do a lot of other IT activities. So my career is in IT and in computers. I had a huge fascination with them all through high school. And the school was quite supportive. They would let me stay behind after school and use the computer labs, unsupervised, which was normally not allowed.

I was fortunate in year nine and year 10, that I was able to do year 12 IT studies and year 12 music. I loved playing an instrument and I loved the music class. And I could follow that quite well. And even the theory side was easy for me, in music and computers.

I remember in metal work, the teacher…all we had to do was create some little piece of something. And I was so damn terrible at that that the teacher did it for me. And then said, “Now, just go outside for half an hour, come back and hand it into me. And then I’ll pass you.” He only passed me. He didn’t give me a grade of any sort. And I’m very lucky that that particular teacher was extremely supportive. So was my math teacher. Trying not to say his name. He was a great support and he knew that I struggled. He knew it was hard, so much in fact, that after school, if I wasn’t working, he would sit with me and he would try and help me as best he could. But I built that relationship with him because he was also the IT teacher. And he knew that I had my passion for IT. He knew that when it came to computers and technology, that was easy for me. Very, very easy.

We did have a program in our school in the later years, which was like a homework club. The school got funding for it to have a Pasifika aide. And we had this homework club that would run each night. And where we were supposed to do homework, truth be told, most of the time we just played on the computers. But it did help at times because studying, for me at home, was…I couldn’t do it. Kitchen table, as much as…if I wanted to study I’d be at the kitchen table. The kitchen table wasn’t for studying, it was for the family to have their meals at. And generally, by the time we got home, it was around meal time. Mum did have a rule that you didn’t have to do any cooking or cleaning if you were doing homework, so quite often I was doing homework.

And it was just…we were just lucky that Robinvale…I can only talk about my school, but [school] had some certain teachers that were just amazing. My English teacher who would always go out of her way to ensure that we were okay and we were looked after. And if we were struggling, rather than yell at us or tell us off, she would pull you aside at recess or lunch and say, “Hey, I know you’re not doing too well on this particular thing, how about we go and talk about it. And we go and…” And she would help you out. I remember one year, she gave me a verbal test instead of a written test because my handwriting…and my handwriting today is still shocking. I avoid handwriting at all costs because my 11 year old daughter’s handwriting is neater than mine. It’s…yeah. School was hard. It was. But it doesn’t mean you can’t get through it and get there in the end.

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  • 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
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  • Elisabeth – Teacher
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  • 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
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