Celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 at the ADRA Community Centre


Celebrating International Women’s Day at ADRA Community Centre. From left to right: Suzanna, Anoulack Chanthivong NSW MP Member for Macquarie Fields, Manager of ADRA Community Centre Melissa Baleilekutu, Pastor Warwick Sawyer, Jan Nicoll. 

On March 8th 2017 of every year, millions of people around the world  celebrate International Women’s Day as it is a day that commemorates the struggle for women’s rights and an opportunity to unite and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women.

Located in Macquarie Fields, Sydney, Australia, the ADRA Community Centre hosted a delightful morning tea in celebration of International Women’s Day. This event brought together women from within and around the community to connect and engage in the sharing of stories and to reflect on this year’s International Women’s Day theme “Be Bold For Change”. The Manager of ADRA Community Centre, Melissa Baleilekutu, stated that “it was important to celebrate International Women’s Day and bring women from the community alongside women from community organisations and government, to share stories and embrace each others’ bold moments and achievement, and at the same time inspire one another to be bold for change.”   

The ADRA Community Centre’s mission is to work with people in poverty and distress to create just and positive change through empowering partnerships and responsible action. The centre offer support programs for families such as grandparents and family members of those living with an addiction. Support programs include, but are not limited to, counselling, mentoring, career guidance, case management and financial counselling. In addition, the centre hosts a homework club, an art group, mental health groups, and a women’s group. Also, emergency relief packages are available for those in need. The ADRA Community Centre is a safe place where the community can visit, connect with others and/or talk with the staff.

Upon arrival at the ADRA Community Centre for the International Women’s Day event, as one of the guests in attendance, we were greeted by staff members who welcomed us inside. As we entered, the aroma of the delectable spread wafted throughout the building which led us to the tables lined up with delicious treats. Centred on the front wall was large black print which read #BEBOLDFORCHANGE and above vibrant colours popped from the ceiling which set the scene for what was going to be a morning filled with bursts of inspiration, encouragement and light-hearted humour. 


The delectable morning tea prepared by ADRA Community Centre.

The International Women’s Day celebration began with an introduction by the centre’s Manager, Melissa Baleilekutu, followed by the centre’s Team Leader Volunteer and Case Manager Sarah Hamilton who delivered a warm welcome and an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land, and elders both past and present, and those emerging. Next, we were asked to pair up with another person whom we have not met before and to share with each other a bold moment that we have experienced. In this instance, I met and spoke with a woman who shared with me that the bold moments that she has had in her life include raising her four children on her own. I could feel the courage, resilience and love in her words spoken. Moved her story, I applaud this Mother for her boldness. Once this sharing period was completed, different women were invited to the front to share the stories that were exchanged. These moments were uplifting and inspiring.
IWD Event 3

Celebrating International Women’s Day at ADRA Community Centre. From left to right: Barbara Faauinga, Moana Glassie-Strickland, myself, Mal Fruean, and Melissa Waaka Smith.

In following, it was time for the guest speakers  to share. I am honoured and grateful that I was invited to this event as one of the guest speakers. The other guest speakers were Kassandra Isvik from Benevolent Society, Ngapera Paki – Manager for Youth Off The Streets, Koch Centre, and Pastor Warwick Sawyer. Given that the theme this year for International Women’s Day was #BeBoldForChange, we were invited to share about a bold moment and how that has impacted change within our lives and in the lives of others. I spoke from my heart and with the purpose to encourage, inspire and empower the audience. I shared a few of my experiences as a student and as a staff member at The University of Auckland, New Zealand and more recently as a staff member at Western Sydney University, Australia. These experiences had presented me with a couple of options: 1. to give up and walk away; 2. to be bold in order to take a leap of faith. I mentioned that more often than not, I would choose the second option. However, I noted that while there are times in our lives where we can choose to be bold in order to take a leap of faith; other times will require us to allow others to be bold for us, and there is no shame in that. I acknowledged the strong female figures in my life who have influenced and empowered me as I was growing up and still to this day. Also, I acknowledged the strong male figures who alongside the influential women in my life, have supported the pursuit of my hopes, dreams and career ambitions.  Moreover, I reflected on 2014 when I had graduated from The University of Auckland, New Zealand with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education, and how I remember the smile of an 8 year old Tongan girl when she ran up to me on graduation day to tell me “When I grow up, I want to be like you“. In that moment, all the negative experiences and hardships that I had encountered leading up to that point in time became a distant memory. Her words serve as a reminder for me today that when you are bold for yourself, you can instill a sense of courage and hope in others in the pursuit of their dreams.


Celebrating International Women’s Day. From left to right: Victor Counted, Melissa Baleilekutu and myself.

Being bold for change as I understand it to be, means to place your trust in God. To uplift your hopes, dreams and career ambitions in prayer. To trust that God will lead you to where you need to be. And that when you arrive, for you to remember to be bold for others, because when you are bold for others, then change is inevitable. While over the years significant milestones have been reached in support for women’s rights across the globe, there remains a great amount of work for my generation and the next to put our hearts and minds together to advance equality, promote female voices that may go unheard, support success for women in education and within the workforce, and to impact positive change across various landscapes. In that light, I will continue to advocate for positive change and to continue to be bold not only for myself, but also for others. I concluded my talk with a quote by one of my favourite poets, the late Dr. Maya Angelou:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself,
without knowing it possibly,
without claiming it,
she stands up for all women.”
I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to the Manager of ADRA Community Centre, Melissa Baleilekutu, and her team for organising a wonderful and heart-warming event in celebration of International Women’s Day. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and I am grateful that I was there to be inspired by other women who are supporting their families, contributing to surrounding communities and striving within their field of work. Thank you Melissa for arriving at this point in time and holding the door open for myself and many other women to walk through. Your leadership and your example to serve are valued and much appreciated.

Malo ‘aupito, ‘ofa lahi atu,

Dr. Maryanne Pale.

For more information about the ADRA Community Centre, please contact the Manager Melissa Baleilekutu on:  melissabaleilekutu@adra.org.au

International Women’s Day 2017 – #BeBoldForChange #IWD2017



March 8th is observed across the world as International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrating the achievements of women in all aspects of life. The theme for IWD 2017 is ‘Be Bold For Change’ and this can be an opportunity for you to:

  • celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women
  • declare bold actions that you will take as an individual or organisation to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world

To find out more information about events, resources and ideas for celebrating International Women’s Day, please visit www.internationalwomensday.com.

How will you #BeBoldForChange for #IWD2017?


Creative Talanoa – 5 Years On


My niece Hadassah and I in 2012.

Today, January 7th 2017, marks exactly 5 years since this blog was created. As mentioned in my previous post, it was my love for poetry, spoken word and all things creative that inspired me to create this blog in 2012. Did I expect to have almost 200,000 visits to this blog when I first created it? No. But it has happened and I am truly grateful.

Over the past five years, this blog has documented various experiences that I have had and the inspiring people whom I have either journeyed with or met along the way. I would like to extend my gratitude to all whom I have had the honour in sharing their stories and lived experiences on this blog. I appreciate your time, support and love. 

Given that I had competing deadlines; I am content with the number of posts that have gone live on this blog and the responses and engagement that I have received over the past five years from readers around the world. It has not been an easy task to host this blog as I have had to multi-task and manage competing deadlines. One of those deadlines was to complete my post-graduate studies which, by the grace of God, I managed to and in 2014 I graduated with a PhD in Education from The University of Auckland. Therefore, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for reading, following and sharing posts from this blog. Thank you so much. I look forward to sharing more stories and lived experiences with you all this year.

Please note that you can enter your email address on the right hand column of the homepage in order to receive a notification each time a new blog post has gone live. Also, please feel free to comment below or send through an email to creativetalanoa@gmail.com for any enquiries. I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless, Dr. Maryanne Pale

With Gratitude and Grace

It was 10 days before Christmas when I arrived back in New Zealand and I bumped into a person whom I had not seen in about five years. So naturally our conversation started from where we last left off. As we were talking, I realised how much has happened during the period with which had passed and how much this person had missed out on in my life and vice versa. What struck me the most about our conversation was reflecting on the numerous experiences and developments which have transpired and how those experiences have shifted me from what was, to what exists in this present moment. Some of the questions that this person had asked during the course of our conversation made me feel grateful for God’s grace upon my life.

It was timely that I had bumped into the person mentioned above because prior to departing Sydney, Australia to return home (New Zealand), I had facilitated talanoa sessions with 16 students whom I have worked alongside over the past couple of years at Western Sydney University. The talanoa sessions began in mid-November of this year when I shared with the students that I was in the process of writing my plans for the next five years as part of projecting a trajectory for my life academically, professionally and personally. It was 15 years ago when I started writing five year plans and I am about to enter my fourth cycle. I explained to the students that once my plans for the next five years are finalised, then I will uplift it all unto God through prayer as I have faith that He will establish the plans accordingly. The 16 students were inspired to follow suit and in mid-December of this year, they each wrote their hopes and plans that they have envisioned for themselves for the next five years. I read their writings on my flight home to New Zealand which was truly heart-warming. The students and I have agreed that we will reunite in five years time for a catch up and to revisit what they have written. I am optimistic for these 16 students and their hopes and plans ahead.

Moreover, it seems serendipitous that when 2017 arrives, it will mark five years since I started this blog. It was my love for poetry, spoken word and all things creative that inspired me to create this blog in 2012. Did I expect to have almost 200,000 visits to this blog when I first created it? No. But it has happened and I am truly grateful. To be able to share the stories and lived experiences of others on this blog has been a blessing. In addition, to be provided with opportunities to host talanoa sessions with creatives over the past five years and to feature them as special guests on this blog has been a wonderful experience for me. It has not been an easy task to host this blog over the past five years as I have had to multi-task and manage competing deadlines. One of those deadlines was to complete my post-graduate studies which, by the grace of God, I managed to and in 2014 I graduated with a PhD in Education from The University of Auckland. Also, over the past five years I had to set aside time to engage with community work, to write and perform spoken word pieces, to present my academic work at international educational conferences, to deliver on speaking engagements at various church and community events, to create and enjoy memorable moments with my family and friends and the list continues. So I am grateful for the many lessons that I have learned along the way and the positive outcomes that have been achieved.

Upon reflection, I am content that I am not standing in the same place as I was in five years ago. I have been strengthened by the challenging situations that I have encountered. I am honoured to have been led into the direction that God had intended for me to go. I am thankful for the successes that I have had this year and over the past five years. Furthermore, I look forward to what lies ahead in 2017 and beyond, as I walk with God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11-12.

On that note, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for reading, following and sharing posts from this blog. I am truly grateful. Thank you also to the people whom I have had honour in sharing their stories and lived experiences on this blog. I appreciate your time, support and love.

To conclude this post, below are a few questions for you to reflect on as we transition into 2017:

  1.     What are your hopes and plans for the next five years and why?
  2.     How are you going to work towards making your hopes and plans become realities?
  3.     What are you going to do once you have achieved all that you have set out to accomplish?

Feel free to comment below or send through an email to creativetalanoa@gmail.com if you have any enquiries.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017. I look forward to connecting with you in the new year with gratitude and grace.

God bless,

Dr. Maryanne Pale

Mele`ana To `i Pouono Kalekale Wickham – The inspiration behind Pouono Krafts

The Tongan community in New Zealand celebrated Tongan Language Week from 4th September 2016 to 10th September 2016. The theme was Fakakoloa `a Aotearoa `aki `a e Loto`i Tonga – Enriching Aotearoa with the Tongan Spirit. In addition, there were four sub-themes:

  1. Ko hoku Tonga – My Tongan Identity
  2. Loto `Ofa – Love
  3. Loto Faka`apa`apa – Respect
  4. Loto Fakatōkilalo – Humility

According to the 2016 Tongan Language Week Committee, Loto is the heart and spirit of affection and authority. Loto`i Tonga reflects Tongan people’s complex and beautiful beliefs, values and aspirations. To conclude the celebration of 2016 Tongan Language Week, I am honoured and grateful to feature Mele`ana To `i Pouono Kalekale Wickham as a special guest on this blog.

On a recent visit back home to New Zealand, I had the opportunity to meet with Pouono and we had a talanoa session about her passion for creating traditional Tongan attire, arts and crafts. In the process, she reflected on her lived experiences and acknowledged those who have inspired her along the way. Born and raised as a young child in the Kingdom of Tonga, she prides herself in her cultural heritage, her family connections and her faith in God. She currently resides in Paeroa, New Zealand with her husband Jamie Wickham which is where she runs her newly formed business Pouono Krafts. Her Tongan Spirit is exhibited through the beautiful traditional Tongan attire that she creates and in turn adorned by many in New Zealand and abroad.

Enjoy the read! (MP = Maryanne Pale)

MP: Please share with us a little about your background

Pouono:  I grew up in the Kingdom of Tonga in a village called Vaini with my grandparents – Lili and Siua Kalekale. They raised me for the first 10 years of my life. I learned so much from them. They disciplined me which helped prepare me for life. I was very fortunate to have grown up with them. I believe that because I was around my grandparents a lot, I developed a love for being around older people. We lived a simple life. We did not have much but they taught me to be happy and grateful for what we did have.


MP:  You will always have that special bond with your Grandparents. Thank you for sharing. Who inspired you as you were growing up?

Pouono:  The first person that comes to mind is my Grandfather Siua. He was a very strong person and very wise. From him I learned to be independent and to never rely on people for my needs. He taught me that if I wanted something that I need to work for it. He told me that I should not expect to be handed things in life. He inspired me to be more loving and to be respectful towards others. I will always be grateful for him.

Also, there’s my Great-Aunt (my Grandmother’s older sister) who is a very humble person. As I was growing up in Tonga, I always looked up to her. She inspired me to love not only my family but also to love others around me which she demonstrated in her day to day living. She would invite strangers into her family house and feed them and as a young child I would always question why. It wasn’t until I got older that I realised and understood why she did that. Christ said ‘what you do to strangers, you do to me’ and so she was living her life according to Christ’s example. She inspired me to treat others just as I treat my family.

MP: That is so beautiful! Your family members have inspired you greatly.

Pouono:  Yes, I hope that when I have children of my own, I will be able to pass onto them the messages and lessons that I have learned from my Grandfather and my Great Aunty, and that my children could then pass it onto theirs.

I would also like to acknowledge a very important person in my life and that is my husband – Jamie Wickham. Over the past few years of my life, he has helped to shape me into the person that I am today. An example would be how he has helped me to let go of the grudges that I once held against others which was something that I struggled with. The people that did me wrong, I used to pretend they didn’t exist anymore and I never wanted anything to do with them; however, Jamie put things into perspective for me. It sure took a lot of effort but he never gave up and I felt that as soon as I started letting go of certain situations, I felt peace in my heart. Jamie taught me to forgive, and to also think wisely before I speak. Most importantly, he taught me to look for the good in people and to focus on the positives. He has taught me many things which have helped me to be wiser each day. I am forever grateful to God for bringing Jamie into my life.

MP: That is truly special. It is lovely to hear the love and support that he provides you with. I would love to hear how your creations all began.

Pouono:  It all began when I was looking for a gift for Jamie on our one month of dating. When I met him, I knew that he was very special. When we started dating, he was living in Napier and I was living in Auckland so we sent each other gifts. I wanted to make him something unique for our one month (yup one month and I was head over heels for him). I noticed one of my Mum’s flower vase whilst sitting in the lounge which gave me an idea to create a bouquet of Forrero Rocher chocolates and I ended up sending it to him.


MP:  That is creative indeed. It’s very beautiful.

Pouono:  Thank you. I believe that’s when I started exploring my creativity. Our first valentine we didn’t go out but instead we cooked and I made our own centrepiece. Jamie proposed and then we started planning for our wedding. We didn’t have much money as I was still an unemployed student so I had to up my creative thinking. I went on to personalising all our centrepieces, made our own cake stand, made all mine’s and my five bridesmaids flower bouquet and all the decorations for our head table. I realised from there that I was pretty good and creating stuff with my hands. So I continued to be an unemployed student when I started making Tongan traditional attire.


Now when I make Tongan traditional attire, I feel as though I am sharing a part of myself, my gift, my passion and it makes me feel proud that I remain connected to my Tongan roots. Also, my husband Jamie is of European descent, and so for me to be able to create the traditional attire is also about sharing my Tongan culture with him and that he gets to experience and see it firsthand.


MP: That is truly heart-warming. Jamie definitely brings out the best in you and your Tongan spirit is evidenced in the love for the creations that you produce. What is your creative process for your designs?

Pouono:  Well my Mother is a great source of inspiration in my creative process. She helps me to create the traditional Tongan wear for Pouono Krafts. I am grateful for her insight and experience.

My creative process for each design is pretty simple actually. To be honest, when I get orders I try to draw it but I never draw. What I do, I think about it before I go to sleep. I try and visualise everything in my head. By the time I wake up, usually I have a clear picture of what it is that I would like to make. However, when I start making the Tongan traditional wear, I keep making changes and at the end it’s totally different from what I had initially visualised. So that’s how it has worked for me.


MP: You have so many beautiful designs. What is the feedback that you have received from your customers?

Pouono:  It has been overwhelming. How much people support and love what I do. I have had feedback that they have never seen my work before and that it is unique, it’s different, it’s new.

I even had my husband’s friends ask me to make a teunga tau’olunga (traditional Tongan attire for a Tongan female dance) for her wedding but she lives in Australia. I’ve been trying to find someone as good as your wife to make my teunga tau’olunga. Could you please ask her if she could please make my teunga tau’olunga. For me when I read that, I thought, what I am sure there is plenty of people. It’s amazing to hear people’s feedback and it’s encouraging. However, if I do receive negative feedback, I would have to accept it and build on that.

I shared some of my Tongan traditional attire on Facebook which began generating interest and now I am in the process of creating my own website. Hopefully in the next few years I will have my own shop.


MP:  That is wonderful to hear. I believe that you will have your own shop one day. Anything is possible! May you please name an experience that you had that influenced you to become the person that you are today?

Pouono:  Hmmn. Let me think… Ah yes, there is a day that I will never forget. It was when I was a young girl and I was with my Grandmother while she was gardening at home. I heard her calling out to me but I didn’t respond so she kept calling and calling but I kept quiet hoping that she would stop. However, she kept on calling for me and so for the first time, I raised my voice out of frustration and I yelled out “What?”. Unbeknown to me, my Grandpa was inside the house and he heard me yell. Suddenly, he came out of the house and he called out to me to go over to see him. Immediately, I thought, ‘Oh no! I am in trouble!’. With a firm look on his face he told me “You should never raise your voice at your Grandma or anyone else”. His words pierced me and that day really got to me. From that day, I have never raised my voice at anyone. So that is an example of the many experiences that I have had which have helped me shape me into the person that I am today.


MP: Aww that’s so cute and it’s special that your Grandfather’s teachings are still with you today.

Pouono:  Yes, his voice lingers in all that I do. I have not forgotten the many lessons that he has taught me. Sometimes when I am about to make a decision, my Grandfather’s voice comes to mind and it’s comforting for me to be able to pause and reflect on what he would say or do.

MP: Given that this week we celebrated 2016 Tongan Language Week, may you please share something about the Tongan culture that makes you proud?

Pouono:  Sure. I love how I grew up in a Tongan family and seeing how the Tongan culture grows. We have an all for one and one for all perspective on life. What I have come to experience is that it is always better to stand together. I really love that about our Tongan culture. That is something that I want to instil in my family. I have seen family members demonstrate their love through acts of kindness such as always giving and never expecting anything in return.


MP:  I love that! Is there something that you wish to share in the Tongan language?

Pouono:  Yes. I would like to share a favourite Tongan proverb of mine. `Oua e lau e kafo kae lau lava – Ko e taha eni he paloveape `oku ou pukepuke ma`u pe `i he`eku fononga mo `eku feinga kotoa pe `oku fai. `Oku mahu`inga ke tau tuku taha pe `etau fakakaukau ki he ngaahi me’a lelei kuo tau a`usia ka tau tukuange `a e ngaahi me`a na`e `ikai ke lelei. ‘Oku mahu`inga ke tau puke pe `a e lelei he ko e lelei `oku ne ‘omi `a e fakalotolahi kiate kitautolu ke tau to e fai lelei lahi ange `i he kaha`u. Kapau te tau fakakaukau ma`u pe ki he ola kovi `i he`etau fononga, `e hanga `e he kovi `o fakalotosi’i kitautolu mo ne kapui `a lelei na`a tau te u fai mei hotau ngaahi `atamai.

MP:  Malo `aupito Pouono ho vahevahe mai `a e paloveape. `Oku hoko ia ko e fakalotolahi kiate au pea mo hoku ngaahi faka`amu ki he kaha`u. Is there a piece of advice that you would like to share with the younger generation?

Pouono:  Yes, my advice for the younger generation is to not take things for granted. Take every opportunity as they come. Don’t give up on your dreams. If you really want it then go out there and make it happen. You will encounter negativity and that’s ok. You just believe in yourself and you will get to anywhere you want to go.

From my experiences, I know that if I want this to be successful then I need to put in the work, believe in myself and keep going. My husband always encourages me to stay positive and he reminds me not to dwell on the negatives. So I try and keep a positive mindset and surround yourself with people who will encourage and support you. I think that is important.

MP: Is there anything that you would like to add?

Pouono:  Yes, I believe that I got to where I am now because of God’s grace. I think if it wasn’t for God I would be wandering down another path. For me, faith got me to where I am and it has given me so much joy and happiness. Giving everything to God was the best thing that I have ever done.

If you believe in God but things may seem like it’s not working in the way that you think it should, continue to have faith and just hand it all over to God. He works in mysterious ways. Allow Him to take the lead. When you are at a point in your life where you have reached success, you look back and realise that God was working through your life. You realise that this is where you are meant to be.

MP: Amen! Thank you Pouono for your time and for sharing aspects of your journey. You truly embody the Tongan spirit and you share this beautifully with many around you. I am blessed to have cross paths with you. Wishing you all the very best for all your future endeavours. Malo `aupito and `ofa lahi atu xox

Pouono: Likewise Maryanne. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story. I am very grateful. God bless and `ofa lahi atu.


To connect with Pouono on her Pouono Krafts Facebook page, please click on the link below:

Pouono Krafts



We have now reached the end of the first six months of 2016 and I hope that all that you had planned for at the beginning of this year has come to fruition, or that all is progressing well. Since my post in January 2016, a lot has happened with me and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of those experiences keeping in mind that I work with youth, young adults and the community in general, some of whom follow this blog.

At the beginning of this year, I was provided with opportunities to undertake a number of roles at Western Sydney University (in Sydney, Australia) and as a result, I began working this year as a Project Officer, a Tutor, a Lecturer and a Unit/Course Coordinator (the teaching roles were under the Bachelor of Education course and the Master of Teaching course). A few of the roles were new for me which meant that in order to be able to navigate these new spaces successfully, I had to prioritise my time, keep my focus on my responsibilities, and work diligently to ensure that all that needed to be completed would be fulfilled in a timely fashion and to the best of my abilities. However, it was not just work that I had to prepare and plan for at the beginning of this year.  I also needed to factor in time to fly home to New Zealand to visit my parents and my family and spend quality time with them. Accordingly, the beginning of this year involved a lot of planning, organising and forecasting on my part.

Despite the competing deadlines, I managed to deliver on all key objectives which were set at the beginning of the year. Consequently, positive outcomes were attained in relation to student academic achievement and key performance indicators were achieved. In addition, I was also able to fly home (Auckland, New Zealand) three times over the past six months and each time I did, I made the most of my time spent with my parents and my family – priceless! In turn, my family and I also experienced successes by which we are truly grateful for.

While my experiences within the first six months of this year seem like it was all positive, in reality this was not the case. There were just as many challenges that I encountered as there were successes. I was faced with obstacles along the way which acted as distractions or hindrances. However, through God’s grace, I managed to push through despite the difficult times. In saying that, I have some questions for you to reflect on:

  • What do you do when you are faced with obstacles or challenges in your life?
  • How do you deal with distractions or hindrances?
  • If you have addressed any of the above, what was the outcome?
  • What has been your greatest learning over the past six months?
  • How will your new learnings or realisations inform you as you move into the next six months?

Over the years, I have found it particularly encouraging to have positive people, and people who will tell it like is, speak into my life. Allowing them to do so has provided me with their perspective on life which at times may differ from mine. In particular, when I am dealing with difficult situations, these people have influenced me to focus on the positives. My journey has been empowered with a support system as such. As a result, a lot of growth and personal development on my part has eventuated. I feel optimistic about proceeding into the final six months of this year. I hope that you are feeling the same too about what the remainder of this year will look like for you.

Below is a list of seven pieces of advice that I received over the past six months from my family and friends. I hope that the following will encourage or empower you in your journey just as it has in mine.

  1. Choose well and choose now – Everyone is presented with choices. Positive change comes when your choices are made in the direction of where you aim to go. Reflect on how your choices have led you to this point in time.
  2. Stay in your lane – Remain focused on your goals, your dreams and what you need to do in order to achieve it by the end of the year. Run your race.
  3. Maintain a life/work balance – Do not take on more responsibilities than you have time for. Prioritise your life so that when you are in a position to deliver outcomes (e.g. in family, work, study and/or other commitments) you will be able to give your best. Schedule in time to rest and enjoy the company of family and friends. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Do not sweat the small stuff – Nit pickers will always be concerned with or find fault with insignificant details and usually they do it in a petty way. Shake it off and keep moving forward.
  5. In all things give thanks – Despite any hardship that you may face, you will always be able to find something to be grateful for. Give thanks regardless of the situation that you are in.
  6. Remember to laugh – Life is too short. Do not forget to take the time to laugh freely and loudly! #LOL
  7. Read Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Keep in prayer about all things. Have faith in God’s promise.

As stated at the beginning of this year, I will continue to feature special guests on this blog. Please keep an eye out for the next special guest. Thank you for reading and/or following. I truly appreciate it. If you have any questions about this blog, please send your email to creativetalanoa@gmail.com. Wishing you all the very best for the final six months of 2016!

Much love and respect,


Andrew Faleatua – Jazz Musician, Composer & PhD Candidate at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney, Australia


Andrew Faleatua is of both Samoan and European descent and comes from a family of 10 children. In New Zealand, Andrew completed a Bachelor of Music (2011), attained First Class Honours in Jazz Performance (2012) and completed a Master of Music with First Class Honours in Jazz Performance (2014) all at The University of Auckland. He went on to lead a number of jazz bands at venues around Auckland such as CJC (Creative Jazz Club), the Auckland Jazz and Blues Club, Lewis Eady and more.

Andrew Faleatua composed music for the cinema release of ‘Three Wise Cousins’ at the beginning of this year. At present, he is undertaking a PhD in composition/cultural studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney, on the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and the Anne Reid Memorial Trust Scholarship. Here he is fusing musical elements from his Pacific heritage with jazz to create something fresh and exciting. This, for him, constitutes a means of cultural identity expression as an “afakasi” – having one foot in the world of jazz and the other in a rich Samoan heritage. His vision is to lecture, help young Pacific people thrive in music at university and, through his Pacific jazz sound, demonstrate how Pacific traditions can afford uniqueness and power to one’s own contemporary sound irrespective of genre. It is this vision that propels Andrew Faleatua through his PhD studies and musical performance life abroad.

In 2015, Andrew Faleatua’s composition ‘Samoa Forever’ was a finalist for APRA best pacific song at the New Zealand Pacific Music Awards.  At the end of 2014, he was the headline act at the inaugural Samoana Jazz Festival in American Samoa. He also supported Iva Lankum who headlined at the Samoana Jazz Festival in Apia, Samoa.

In early February 2016, I had a talanoa session with Andrew Faleatua which took place in a café at Central Park in Sydney, Australia and I came away feeling inspired and empowered by the words and experiences that he shared. I am honoured and grateful to be able to feature him on this blog as a special guest. Enjoy the read! (MP = Maryanne Pale)

MP: Please share your thoughts on jazz music and what it means to you.

ANDREW: There will be different definitions and interpretations of what jazz music about; however, for me personally, jazz is a vehicle for expression. I believe that improvisation is at the heart of jazz. For example, in an ensemble, jazz can be likened to a group conversation where everyone listens to each other and communicates in their own unique way.  Similarly, musicians engage with each other thus producing a unique blend of music.

MP: I like your personal take on jazz music. So who were the people in your life who inspired you to get into Jazz music and why?

ANDREW: You know when you’re young and you have people that you look up to? Well for me, there’s a guy called Toma Amosa, he is a NZ artist and he works alongside David Dallas. Actually, the Amosa family are all talented. Back in the day Toma played the piano and he was good at it. I looked up to him as I was growing up and I used to look at him and think ‘this guy is mad’. At the time I was learning classical piano – I was probably about 13 or 14 years of age. Back then, he used to come over home and improvise on the piano and I remember watching him in awe and thinking ‘I want to be like to this guy’. So I used to be a little bit naughty and outside of classical piano, I would try and learn how to improvise on church chords etc.  I think from there it was kind of a natural progression into jazz because jazz includes a lot of improvisation. So over the years, I played classical piano and on the side I played in church which I think was an obligatory role as a Pastor’s son lol! It was at church that I would keep improvising. I think for me, Toma was the main influence – that’s how much I looked up to him as a youngster.

MP: So have you had the chance to tell Toma all this?

ANDREW: He will know now once he reads our talanoa lol!

MP: Lol! That’s pretty awesome! I am sure that Toma will be stoked. So how did you progress from there?

ANDREW: Well, when I arrived at The University of Auckland, I actually started a maths course. I was doing alright in the first year but I found that I was really passionate about music. So I decided to pursue my passion and I made the shift from the maths course over to a music course which led me to the jazz course. Learning how to play classical piano and being influenced at a young age to explore improvisation, by the likes of Toma Amosa and his family, I believe that’s what led me to enjoy jazz music.

MP: I am glad that you made the decision to shift from the maths course to the music course. It’s inspiring that you made the call to pursue what you are passionate in. At the time you were exploring improvisation, would you say that it was something that you would consider to be inherent?

ANDREW: I think so. It must have been natural because I can’t think of any other reason as to why improvisation resonated with me – it became a part of me. Actually, my Dad would always improvise on the guitar and he had done that since my siblings and I were babies. I remember when we would have family time and together we would sing. My Dad used to solo here and there and improvise on the guitar. That could be a contributing factor as to why I think that improvisation for me is inherent.

MP: Love it! So improvisation runs in your genes! That’s awesome. What keeps you motivated each day?

ANDREW: Lol! Yeah you are probably right! What keeps me motivated each day… Passion itself! I have a passion for music and I have a passion for creating something unique or creating something different. Leaving my unique stamp on the world – that’s what motivates me. Saying something that someone else hasn’t said before… something about that in particular motivates me to do what I do.

Also, knowing that I will have a family of my own one day motivates me and so Rachel is a huge inspiration in my life as well. I feel that walking alongside her, we have clear dreams and goals. Pursuing those things together is a really exciting thing. In the mornings and afternoons we would talk about how we are going with each of our careers and together we push each other as we pursue our goals. Also, thinking about the future, I know that I need a career that will help me to support my family – that’s another motivation.

MP: Inspiring indeed! Also, it’s great to hear that your wife supports you, works alongside you and together you guys make a great team.

andrew-faleatua-2ANDREW:  Yeah, she’s a huge source of inspiration for me. Another thing that motivates me each day is drawing from traditional Samoan music and trying to represent it in a way that is appealing to younger generations. For example, a part of my study is the sharing of cultural knowledge through sounds that draw attention. I want to present traditional Samoan music to the younger generation. I want them to know that you can learn a lot from your heritage and have confidence in knowing your identity and knowing who you are. I would like to instill confidence in the younger generation and say ‘this is who you are and this is the line that you hail from’.  I believe that when they become aware of that, they will then be able to navigate their way through life and carry their identity with that extra bit of confidence in who they are. So a lot of my work within my PhD includes consulting with traditional elders. I continue to ask the traditional elders ‘how can I respectfully draw from our traditions’.

MP: Yes, there is an importance in upholding the respect with our traditional elders. So what you are doing is great and I am sure that they appreciate your consultation process.

ANDREW: Thank you. I also incorporate the same consultation process with others whom I am privileged to work with. For example, more recently I have been working with Maryjane and Fred from Matavai Cultural Arts. I am creating music pieces for traditional dance i.e. slap dance and as part of the process, I consult them on finding respectful ways of incorporating Western elements of music with our traditional Samoan culture, and presenting it to the younger generation so that they can build confidence upon knowing where they come from. So that’s a huge motivation for me.

MP: The collaboration sounds really exciting!

ANDREW: Yeah I am excited. It will be something new for me. I wanted to first serve in the community here in Australia to show that I am trustworthy and that I have good intentions. So for 2016, the collaboration with Matavai Cultural Arts will be one of the projects that I will be working with and I am looking forward to the outcomes. I want it to be something new and different. I am hoping for the end product to be filmed and televised.

MP: That is fantastic! I love Matavai Cultural Arts and I look forward to it seeing how everything falls into place. So what else do you have lined up for 2016?

ANDREW: It will be an extremely busy year for me. I plan to have 3 album releases this year…

MP: Wait… 3 album releases this year?

ANDREW: Lol! Yeah, the first album is the soundtrack for Three Wise Cousins.

MP: Oh yes! I remember that studio session with the team and you guys have been working on it over the past few months. It will be a great soundtrack and I am looking forward to watching the movie.

ANDREW: Yeah that’s the one! You have to see the movie – it’s hilarious lol! The second album is tied to my PhD which involves producing a composition portfolio. I have conducted interviews to support my PhD work which outlines the process of composition. Basically it incorporates the traditional elements that I spoke of earlier. It will have a mix of traditional and contemporary music in different forms. Like some of them will have classical piano and some of them will have Hip Hop and R&B, and spoken word.  All these contemporary mediums of music are infused with traditional music which is a product of my consultation process with the traditional Samoan elders. As I mentioned earlier, I sought their advice on how traditional elements of music is produced and performed which is one of the outcomes of my research.

MP: I like how the composition of music and the production of an album will be among the outcomes of your PhD work. You have demonstrated your love and respect for your Samoan culture by consulting with the traditional Samoan elders and including traditional elements of music into your album.  So, what will the third album be about?

ANDREW: Thank you. The third album is more of a personal venture. People will need to watch this space. There is more to come lol!

MP: Lol! So all 3 albums are going to be released this year?

ANDREW: That’s the plan lol!

MP: Wow, that is a lot of hard work! How do you feel about it all?

ANDREW: I am thrilled but I know that it will come with its challenges. The only reason why I think I can do it is that with my experience in composing music for the movie Three Wise Cousins, I learned how to produce relatively quickly. I also have a few producers that I work with and I have a great team around me.

MP: Having a great team around you is pertinent particularly when delivering on competing deadlines. You are very determined and I am confident that all will go well. So 5 years ago, is this where you had envisioned yourself to be?

ANDREW: An honest answer – no lol! It’s funny actually. You know, as you are growing up people will ask you ‘what do you want to be when you get older?’ and you tell them about your dreams and aspirations. Well, what I have found is that as you gain new experiences your pathway may change and sometimes it happens unexpectedly. For example, as a jazz artist/pianist, I am now composing music for film and this is a new aspect of my journey. For the movie ‘Three Wise Cousins’ some of the musical compositions make up about 60 parts, similar to that of an orchestra. So I am a composer and I want to write across different sectors of society including writing for community engagement projects. 5 years ago, I didn’t imagine being as passionate and interested in music composition or music performance in a way that I am engaged with it now. Music composition, music production and generating theory through my PhD work – all of this has evolved into something far greater that I could have imagined.

MP: Wow. I see where you are coming from. You mentioned your PhD work. Tell me more about how it ties in with your musical composition and production.

ANDREW: Well, I am learning and writing about Pacific traditions for my PhD thesis which I view as a direct output so to speak. In other words, I am able to present the ideas that I have, in the form of a PhD thesis. Within two disciplines, academia and music performance, they intertwine which enables me to transform what I have learned and what I know into an output which an audience can read, see or hear. There is a synergy that I believe exists within theory, musical composition and production.

MP: I see… Speaking of synergy, I have seen a music video of a song which you and your group of musicians performed at the Samoana Jazz Music Festival a couple of years ago. What was that experience like for you?

ANDREW: Oh yeah! My experience in Samoa was a good one, particularly in the Samoana Jazz Music Festival. We performed about 10 gigs that year for Samoana Jazz Festival and it was over 12 days. The people who came to see us were really nice and they were supportive of what I do. I found working in Samoa really interesting because a lot of my work, as you know, incorporates traditional Samoan elements. I found that the when the locals heard my music compositions, they got it straight away. For example, at the end of a performance locals told us that they have never heard of the type of music that we performed but they could hear the spirit of the song, the rhythms and traditional elements that were familiar to them. We had some of the elders come up to us crying as well and their feedback was about how proud they were to see young people willing to go back (in history) to find the beauty in our traditions and present it today in a way that youth can relate to.

MP: It must have been empowering for you to be able to receive that feedback especially coming from the elders.

ANDREW: Yeah I was so stoked to be able to hear that from them. That was huge for me because I am still learning about the traditional Samoan music and I want the younger generation to learn about it as well.

ANDREW: There is this Samoan proverb that I want to share and it goes: “E leai lava se faiva e asa ma le mau mau”. Basically what it means is that “No fishing expedition ever goes to waste”. So a fisherman that goes out on an expedition and even if he doesn’t catch what he wants, he will learn something. For example, he may learn about the patterns of the tides. So, despite having a good or bad experience, there is something that you can learn from it or take away from that experience. For the younger generation, I want them to know that they are never going to waste anything if they are pursuing your goals or dreams. Whether or not they may be hitting the mark, I want them to know that they are going to learn something from that experience in the long run. So the proverb is referring to a skilled fisherman, someone who knows the ins and outs. So, as I said before, even when the skilled fisherman doesn’t catch his full catch for the day – he will always learn something.

MP: That’s a great proverb! How about yourself? Was there a time that you felt like you were not hitting the mark?

ANDREW: Yeah! I remember when I first started Uni, I had to audition and I was asked to perform a solo and I asked “What’s a solo?” lol! I improvised for them and I was accepted into the jazz course. At that time, I was in stage 1 with all the cats that had previously studied jazz and I felt like I was way behind in terms of music knowledge and performance in comparison to them. I felt as though I was disadvantaged and that was a period of my life which I found difficult. I was attending class and I was trying to keep up with everyone, particularly when it came to improv demonstrations.  I kept trying. I worked hard. I would go home and put extra hours in. It was challenging.

I had to keep reminding myself that I can do it and I had a positive attitude despite having to struggle through the course. I feel that it is in those moments of weakness that you have a choice to either work hard and speak positively which is really important, or just sit back and complain about it which I have found doesn’t work out in the end. Eventually by the end of my degree I was awarded by The University of Auckland as the “Graduate Scholar”. In other words, I received the award as the top academic of my year. From these experiences, I believe that there is no substitute for hard work.

MP: Wow! Your hard work definitely paid off!

ANDREW: Yeah but it wasn’t easy. I believe that if you’re passionate about something, even if you’re not the greatest, and you keep positive vibes around you, go for it and work hard! Before you know it, you will achieve your goals and you dreams will become a reality.

MP: That’s definitely inspiring. Well done on all your hard work. You continue to excel. What is a piece of advice that someone in your life has shared with you which has influenced your journey?

ANDREW: My Father, who is a church minister, is someone inspirational in my life who continues to speak into my journey even up to this very day. He has this saying which has empowered me over the years and it goes, “If you want to slay a Goliath, hang around the David’s”. And what this means is that everyone has a Goliath in their life e.g. challenges, but there are people who have slayed a Goliath before, so his advice is to hang around those people. Those people are the ones who will inspire you and give you the resources that you need. Hanging around the right people will have positive impact on your life. My Father’s advice has influenced me greatly. Relocating from New Zealand to Sydney, my Father’s advice still remains with me to this day. I have found the right people to work alongside, to learn from and to be inspired by.

MP: That’s powerful indeed! Final question, is there anything else that you would like to share?

ANDREW: Yes, I would like to pass on my Father’s advice to the younger generation. Work hard, dream big, and hang around the right people who are going to inspire you and not bring you down. Connect with people who are going to give you knowledge and wisdom that will help you slay your Goliath. We all need people around us to help us grow and learn.

MP: Thank you Andrew for sharing your Father’s advice and for addressing the youth and sharing it with them too. I understand that you are extremely busy so I appreciate your time that you have put aside for this talanoa session. Wishing you all the very best for 2016. I look forward to listening to the albums and seeing more of your projects unfold as this year progresses. Keep up the amazing work that you do!

ANDREW: It was my pleasure. Thank you for the invitation to share my experiences through talanoa. Best wishes to you also this year. Blessings.

To connect with Andrew Faleatua, please click on the following links:


Andrew Faleatua – Facebook

The Three Wise Cousins soundtrack is now available online as digital download at: