Her Financial Aims

The financial plight of Pacific people in New Zealand became apparent early in ‘Ana Tu’inukuafe’s working career. But having joined the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) in July, her life experiences provide the drive to make a positive difference.



Working as a student advisor for Pacific and Maori at a leading tertiary institution in Auckland early in her career had ‘AnaTu’inukuafe convinced that such a role was perfect for her.


“My social sense of justice was influenced at a young age with Mum, who had been a community social worker, and Dad, who had a career as an electronic technician and business management,” says ‘Ana.


“He later worked in in the community, too. With the help of Dad’s parents, Ma and Pa looked after us grandkids while our parents held fulltime jobs.”


While finishing her Post Grad. Dissertation in Political Studies, she secured her first fulltime job with Odyssey House, with the Stand Up! and Amplify! schools programme with young people and teens in the area of addictions.


“Knowing the migration stories of my forefathers on both sides, parents and so many other family members, are mind-blowing. It evokes a great deal of emotions trying to fathom the sacrifices, struggles, challenges and so much more that they faced arriving in a new country and trying to create a better life for them and future generations ... like me.


“Even to this day, when I see or work with Pasifika or other ethnicities, working really hard to make the best life they can, it’s one of my major drivers that keeps me motivated and out of bed each morning. I know it always sounds cheesy, but I really do my best in the hope it will benefit the Pasifika community and others.”


Her drive and thirst of knowledge grew despite, as a child in primary school, having two significant seizures a few days apart. The second almost caused her to drown in a swimming pool before being saved by her grandfather. Although she did not have epilepsy, ‘Ana was given medication in the assumption she did.


“I was fully dependent on the adults around me. I had to learn how to walk and move again. The reminder of this extremely tough time was the years of living in a hospital and my permanent short sightedness.”


Rather than feel sorry for herself, the experience fuelled ‘Ana’s passion.


“It made me appreciate that life is precious,” she says.



“I lost my ability to use my limbs because of it,” she says ... all I could do was blink,” she says. “I love sport, and even though I’m not particularly talented, I’m very competitive and enjoy team sports and physical activity because of what happened to me’.


“My family’s strong faith, prayers, love and support helped me to pull through the traumatic experience of learning to walk and see again.


The doctor said I was lucky to have my sight back, identifying issues that mostly happen to older people. I was only seven.”


The confusion caused her parents to lose faith in the health system, where she was recommended three months epilepsy medication, despite negative results. Her parents refused to sign papers to take the recommended medication for three months and she gradually recovered.


“As my parents’ first born and oldest grandchild of my paternal side, our support for one another was important.,” she says.


“As Pasifika people, our faith in God gives us hope in times of crisis. It made me appreciate that life is precious.”


When she was a student advisor, ‘Ana noticed a dwindling in numbers of Pacific people completing courses in relation to the mainstream average and the financial impact it had on those students’ families.


“I was in my early 20s and had this great role as a student advisor for Maori and Pacific,” she recalls.


“But I soon came to realise the challenges. It was hard for many of the adult students who enrolled in courses, but were struggling to pay for them. Many were double my age and accumulating debt with nothing to show for it.


“They struggled to survive on student allowances and cover their bills, especially those with kids. Students would sleep in their cars on or near the site. For Pasifika, it seemed there were so many other barriers to completing their studies to gain a well-paying job,” ‘Ana recalls.


“I could sense a lot of them were uncomfortable about their financial position, and me being a lot younger probably didn’t help, as much as I sympathised with them. It challenged the way I saw the world and made me more conscious of how I treat people, which is with respect.”


After her senior year at Wesley College, ‘Ana moved out of the family nest and away from her family base on North Shore and started flatting during her studies at the University of Auckland (Bachelor of Arts)studying politics. The dwindling number of Pacific students staying thecourse year after year was noticeable, which motivated her towards Pacific studies. With an essay assignment to complete, she was able to gather the support to focus on the dawn raids, which occurred during the mid-1970s when Pacific people were specifically targeted and many deported back to the Pacific.


“It motivated me to study a double major in both Political studies and Pacific studies because I wanted to understand the balance of power and its effects on minority groups, in particular my people,” she recalls.


“I’ve seen and have experienced enough to know there are many changes to be made and challenged.”


Which is why ‘Ana, having also worked for Pacific Heartbeat the Heart Foundation and Harbour Sport (SportSPasifik team), joined the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) in July.


The financial state of the Pacific community makes sobering reading, but ‘Ana is determined to make an impact.


“The statistics don’t shock me. It makes me think of how we can contribute and improve them,” says ‘Ana.


“When working with Pacific, it’s not about going into it with premeditated views or ideas. It’s about being flexible and to listen.”


My Big Little Brother




‘ANA TU’INUKUAFE shares her story about her sibling Karl Tu’inukuafe, who burst onto the international rugby scene for the All Blacks as a front rower against France in June, quickly making his mark as an uncompromising prop seemingly from nowhere

I call Karl my big little brother. He has always been tall and was about his size now since he was a young teenager.


People usually think he is older because of his size.


And yes, naturally being the eldest, I’ve always been the overprotective bossy-boots older sister growing up. I would read all his reports and ask what he was doing after school (he was boarding at Wesley College).


During weekends, Karl initially would stay at my university flat. I used to take him to the Auckland Museum when he was a teenager and go to events, including one in support of the Polynesian Panthers, which had been around since the 1970s. I’d make Karl do his homework first. I’m sure he understood my reasoning, but in hindsight it was probably quite boring for a young teenager. He was a trooper and usually did it anyway.


In saying that, Karl has always been mature, intelligent and musically talented. He has a great way of understanding and seeing the world and is strong in his faith and family. Even at a young age, I would discuss things with him, ask for his opinion and push him to be strong in his decision-making and reasoning. I would talk to him a lot as we were growing up about many things.


I’ve always wanted the very best for my little brother, especially because there’s just the two of us siblings – family is all you have.


Once I said to him, “If something happens to all of us and you’re the only one left, you have to be able to speak up for yourself. Don’t let others speak for you”.


Looking back, it seems a bit harsh for a 13-year-old teenage boy to get used to, but I believed at the time I was doing him a favour in helping him to be independent in his views and reasoning.


Karl is married with a son named Marley. The rest of the world now know him as an All Black. That’s a massive accomplishment in itself. We’re so proud and happy for him and his family. I’ve always been a proud older sister. Having only one sibling and my family and faithare my biggest drivers to keep doing the work I do.


This article was first published in issue 72 of SPASIFIK Magazine, read this and more articles like it in the latest issue of SPASIFIK, out now.