Young Pasifika advocacy group documented climate activism for a new documentary

Aged just 18, Aigagalefili Fepulea’i-Tapua’i has founded a Pasifika advocacy group, won awards and spoken with Government ministers – and had a camera document her climate activism for months, for new documentary High Tide Don’t Hide.

The independent Kiwi film follows five young people campaigning for climate action.

Fili (as her friends call her) focused her activism into 4 Tha Kulture, a South Auckland collective fighting for the environment and indigenous rights.

“At the time the film was made, we were a bunch of high schoolers, with no funding, no adults – just 20 kids in a McDonald’s trying to make things work for us and trying to do the best for our community in terms of climate change,” she said. “All we’re really asking for is for our homelands to still be there by the time our children are there.”

Fili made waves in 2019 when she appeared on TV3’s The Project. The then-16-year-old called out the lack of diversity in the climate change arena: “Why are there no brown voices in these conversations, on these committees, when this issue is affecting us?”

Pasifika living in Aotearoa are seeing climate change hit their homelands right now. Fili wanted this perspective reflected in the growing School Strike 4 Climate NZ movement, which culminated in an estimated 170,000 people marching on September 27, 2019. It was one reason she agreed to be part of the documentary.

“A lot of us – especially being from the schools we were from, in South Auckland – we weren’t really used to people wanting to hear our stories,” Fili told Stuff. “It was kind of weird, getting used to having that platform and having that responsibility, doing that on behalf of our community.”

The importance of climate action helped her to overcome her nerves about being in front of a camera, she added.

The AUT law and engineering student sees a chance for young Pasifika to have a greater impact. “The generations before us were immigrants… Our parents only learned how to survive, and we want to learn how to live and to thrive.”

At the moment, 4 Tha Kulture is fundraising to support annual balls at South Auckland schools.

Fili also has a task for everyone: to be aware that while Western views have become dominant, these aren’t the only ways of thinking. “We need to be open and aware to a different perspective that exists, not just the ones that have taken reign over centuries and decades.”

The former head girl of Aorere College took a similar message to Climate Change Minister James Shaw last year, reminding him of the exploitation of the Pacific Islands and the devastating future residents face.

She believes the Government is heading in the right direction – though there’s room to improve climate communication, so it’s accessible to a diverse range of demographics. She also hears a lot of talk with little corresponding action, though the Pacific is running out of time.

“New Zealand has a very Euro-centric way of looking at climate change, when they ignore the perspective of the surrounding islands,” she said. “We are in the Pacific. In the movie, we say: Save the Pacific, save the world. One island sinks, every country after that follows.”

High Tide Don’t Hide is premiering at the Doc Edge film festival, with showings in Auckland and Wellington and is also screening online.

This story was produced by Olivia Wannan, published at Stuff NZ on 16 June 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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