On Friday the 17th, June 2022 a community meeting was held to discuss and reconcile the issues of gang violence and shootings that involve most Tongan youths. Gang violence is not a new topic, and this is not the first time Tongan Youth Trust has hosted this Talanoa with the community regarding this matter. However, this matter is increasingly impacting our community and leaders from the Tongan community including church leaders have raised this as concerning.
Akiheuho and Tongan Youth Trust joint together in weaving and hosting the Talanoa program, aiming for us to listen to the community as to what they have to say about gang violence? in other words, what can we do to support our youths, to protect them from gang violence? As stated by Pakilau ‘o Aotearoa [Manase Lua] from ‘Ākiheuho “There is no point in judging one another or judging a person’s right or wrong answers. But the vision is for us to hold hands together and work together as a community to support our children in choosing a better pathway then gang violence.”
As a result of the Talanoa, ideas were raised including two young men who shared their experienced of life behind bars. What these two young men shared about their experience with gang violence has supported the whole purpose of this talanoa with the hope to utilize this information in helping our youths who are going through difficulties in choosing to live this type of lifestyle. As they explained, “for some kids their problems start from home”, “the causes of these problems are from a broken home and having no control or discipline over their children.” This includes children being raised and brought up in a good home and at church because the problem is that parents and their children do not understand each other, there is no mutual relationship between the parent and the child causing the child to make decisions of their own.
In attendance at this program, we had Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki, representation of parliament, Efeso Collins from Auckland City counsellor, and Makalita Kolo from the Local Government of Mangere-Otahuhu. There were also other attendants including people working for the government such as Yvette Guttenbeil-Po’uhila, and Sonia Pope from the Ministry of Education including people from the community.
As mentioned by ‘Ikilifi Pope [CEO] from Tongan Youth Trust “the Talanoa will continue until there is work being done to save our youths who are involved in gang violence”.