Tufuga Holatu Lagatule

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Tufuga Holatu Lagatule describes herself as a “retired” social worker. A prominent go-to person for Christchurch's Pacific community for decades, Tufuga remains active in her community.

She has seemingly remained solid despite major changes lately.

She was widowed two years ago after 50 years of marriage, one of her sons took his family to Australia after the earthquakes to become the fourth of his siblings to live overseas, and she’s still gaining her strength after an illness from which she was not expected to recover.

Daughter Audrey lives close and visits regularly, bringing with her three-year-old Peyton. It is Tufuga's great-grandchildren who give her the most enjoyment and satisfaction at this time of her life. She has 18 of them at last count, and 15 grandchildren.

Retired? Yeah right!

Tufuga describes herself as a “retired” social worker. A prominent go-to person for Christchurch's Pacific community for decades, Tufuga remains active in her community.

Tufuga is a leading light in matua groups, most based around the individual island ethnicities, which aim to bring older people together.

Older people’s needs are quite high, Tufuga says, adding that a lot of her generation are shy and often won’t speak up for their rights.

“The matua groups here have speakers coming to talk about their health and wellbeing and exercise. They’re learning how to eat the right foods, learning how to keep warm – all the safety things that we are not familiar with; and in their own languages, that’s the good thing about it.”

Memory lane

The matua groups also allow elders to tell their stories about coming to New Zealand and about their home islands.

She is eager those stories are passed on to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For this reason the small Niuean matua group includes children.

“It’s a continuing legacy for the generation to come, for the future and survival of Niue as well as the culture,” she says.

The cycle of life

“Sometimes I do have concerns about growing older,” Tufuga says. “I feel, oh my goodness how many more years? That I’ll be moaning that I couldn’t do something, that I’ll probably go to a home! These things do go through your mind – it’s natural for you to think this way, but you do not live by it, and you cannot dwell on it.

“Each year, another comes with new things. There’s no reason for anybody to be unhappy about it or feel sad about it, because that’s what the cycle of life is all about.

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