Tupu Tai Pasifika Intern says Diverse Perspectives Needed in Public Service and Policy

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A graduate of the Tupu Tai Pasifika Public Policy Summer Internship programme says diverse perspectives are needed in public service and policy. Christian Baledrokadroka was one of 39 interns who completed the 11 week paid internship that kicked off in November 2020 and ended in January 2021.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) established the Tupu Tai public policy internship. It offers opportunities for young and mature Pacific peoples to gain experience in the public sector.

Christian was placed with the Ministry of Education, working with the Pacific Education Policy team. Christian says it was a blessing to have the incredible opportunity to work on four different projects, led by a great manager Fatulatetele Tolo. Christian says Fatu was instrumental in putting together the plan for her to be part of the projects that aligned not only with what the team was already doing but with a lot of  her own passions and strengths she was interested in. Christian was wrapped in a village of support during her internship, beginning with Leilani Tamu and followed by a combination of fellow Tupu Tai and Ministry of Education interns and mentors throughout the public sector, namely the Pacific Policy team and her buddy Alexandra Cliffe.

Christian hails from the villages of Sawakasa Vou in Tailevu, Fiji and Oneata in the Lau Islands and from Samoa, the villages of Fagali’i, Fasito’outa, Iva, Fusi in Savaii and Afega. During her internship she did some work with the Tertiary Policy team, and had a chance to look at Pacific languages in schools, “I got to attend a lot of meetings, and sit in some very heavy conversations, as well as workshops and different programmes that allowed me to get a bigger picture not only of policy and how broad it is, but of my own place and positioning and where I can best kind of be utilised if I was to continue into policy.”

Born and Bred in Hamilton, the 21 year old communications graduate from AUT University acknowledges there was a lot to absorb in such a short time. Going into the programme Christian did not realise the impact policy has and the influence it holds in her life, “I definitely thought that policy was only related to, dare I say it, political parties. When I think of policy, I think of what a political party is wanting to see, or what they believe in, and their own mission statements and vision for the country. But I didn’t actually realise that public policy are the laws, and the programmes that actually regulate society.”

Christian reflects on the opportunity she has had to be part of the programme and identified areas she believes need to be addressed.

There’s just not nearly enough diversity, diversity of thought, diversity of perspective or even experience in the public sector and in policy. Specifically there’s not enough people of colour. There’s not enough Pasifika, not enough Maori people who are at decision making tables or even actually holding the pen on issues and that ultimately is what policy has the power to do, address issues, address problems, and create solutions.Christian Baledrokadroka

Christian was fortunate to submit a written paper on her own tertiary experiences and pass it on to managers in Tertiary Policy. Her paper was also read by different policy analysts and a Director within Education System Policy at the Ministry of Education.

On her own educational journey, Christian reflects on her experience and understands not everyone had the same positive outcomes, “education was instilled in my siblings and I from our grandparents-right to our parents, and then right down to me. So it’s super important. Knowledge in general, knowledge is power as my grandad would say.”

Christian adds, “I had an incredible journey through the New Zealand education system and I say that I’m privileged because that is not the experience of everyone. My Mum is a primary school teacher, both my parents are University graduates, and that meant that there were a lot of first’s I guess, in comparison to a lot of first-in-family studiers nowadays that I did not have to shoulder, and so I think when we talk about a high or low spectrum, or like a good or bad as far as what the education system experience is like, it varies.

She says being involved in the Tupu Tai programme has been one of the best experiences she’s had and a humbling one. “Honestly, to demystify this whole idea of government and parliament and public service and being able to almost pull the curtain back and be like Oh My Gosh, so that’s how things are done, and this is what this means and this is why change is taking so long. There’s so many things that go on as the public we are just not privy to.”

Pasifika people definitely need to be involved in policy and need to be seeking out opportunities and roles in the Public Sector and in policy because as I said policy underpins everything that we do and the way that everyone experiences different areas of our society, I think that’s what’s really really important.Christian Baledrokadroka