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Pasifika churches deliver stay safe message

To many people, the Accident Compensation Corporation is a faceless bureaucracy but last month it became the theme for a Pacific cultural evening that attracted several thousand people to the TelstraClear Pacific events centre in Manukau.

Women and young people from the Methodist Church’s Auckland-Manukau Tongan parish are working with ACC to prevent injuries.

Late last year seven Pacific Island trusts and church groups entered into contracts with ACC to educate their communities about how to prevent injuries and how to get help from ACC if injuries occur.

Among the ways they are doing so is to compose and perform songs, dances, and dramas that convey ACC messages. On May 3rd a cultural evening – Mana Moana Pasifika – was held where the different groups could showcase some of the lessons they learned about ACC with a Pacific flavour..

ACC media advisor Lee-Anne Duncan says ACC has initiatives to reach out to ethnic groups who do not use its services to the extent they could primarily because they aren't aware of how ACC can help them.

"We have outreach programmes with the Asian, Maori, and Pacific Island communities. Our approach is to fund them to get the message out to their people using their own methods and their own languages.

"For example, one means Pacific Islanders use to spread important messages is through cultural performances and ACC couldn’t do that on its own," Lee-Anne says.

The Methodist Church of NZ’s Auckland-Manukau Tongan Parish is one of the five Auckland-based groups who have been getting the word out about avoiding injuries.

President of the Tongan Methodist Women’s Fellowship Seini Filiai says Tongan women are so active in the church that it was decided they should lead the initiative.

"We started in February and we will finish at the end of June. A group of 14 women went through 12 training workshops about how to access ACC services and prevent injuries. ACC provided leaflets in Tongan and promotional material like scarves, hats, and drink bottles we could give away," Seini says.

"We have visited 14 of the 17 congregations in our parish, to share ACC messages about accessing help if injured and preventing injuries, especially in the home and at church. We have also shared these messages during our monthly Women’s Fellowship meetings. I was really surprised how many people did not know anything about ACC.

"Some of our women wrote poems and songs about ACC and about preventing injuries. We worked closely with the youth group from the Ellerslie congregation. Rev Mele S Latu composed songs with ACC messages as well as dances which they performed at the Pasifika Festival in March. They also performed two items at the 3rd of May ACC event."

ACC’s Pasifika education initiative finishes at the end of June. Other church groups that have taken part in are Northern Region Synod of the Samoan Methodist Church and the Samoan Catholic Parishes in Auckland.