Date: 21 February 2020
On Wednesday, 8 year 13 students, graduates of the 2016 Year 9 Fakatoukatea programme, were lucky enough to visit Parliament.
Bryan Afu, Ofa Apikotoa, Hazel Hala, Ane Kaifa, Melisa Ngaluafe, Sione Tu’ifua, Ola Vaka and Nanise Vene, had a truly amazing day. Our flight to Wellington left at 6.55am and was thankfully uneventful. We were met on the steps of Parliament by the wonderful Sandra Tisam, EA to Anahila, who had organised our programme for the day. After clearing security it was straight to work. Students had to think of an issue/ problem that was important to them and write to their local MP, suggesting possible solutions. They were lucky enough to meet Michael Wood, MP for Mt Roskill and labour party whip and Hon. Aupito Su’a William Sio, MP for Mt Roskill. There was a lot of discussion around topics as varied as the Cannabis Referendum, affordable housing, policing, Ihumātao and the End of Life Choice Act Referendum. Students learnt how laws were made and why Parliament is relevant to them. There followed a public tour of Parliament, visiting the Banquet Hall, Parliamentary House, Debating Chamber, Legislative Council Chamber, Grand Hall, Parliamentary Library, Select Committee rooms and finally the The Base Isolators designed to keep the building safe in the event of an earthquake.
The absolute highlight of the day for the students was attending question time in the House. Students were riveted by the debating and were very reluctant to leave when our time was up.
Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki, Labour list MP based in Papakura and Tamaki, who made this trip possible was then able to meet with us and bring with her Tahere Paul Eagle MP for Rongotai and Tamaki Coffey MP for Waiariki. We are truly grateful to everyone who gave up their time to speak with our students.
Special thanks to Anahila and Sepa Hausia-Schaumkel (who accompanied us for the day), for the enormous amount of work that they put into the Fakatoukatea programme and for the opportunities that they give our Tongan students.
We arrived back in the evening tired, happy and with a great understanding of how Parliament works.
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