Who’s listening to Millennials in the Pacific?

Have you read anything about Millennials lately? I’ve read countless articles giving varied opinions, but for the most part – we’re labelled lazy, entitled and impatient.

But who’s talking to #Millennials in the Pacific? Who’s listening to what we have to say? Click to Tweet

What do we know about Generation Y in our own backyard?

Since 2015, we’ve interviewed over 80 Pacific people, 91% of which were born between 1980 and 2000, qualifying them as Millennials and Generation Y’ers. So what did they – or we – have to say?

Well, first off, we’re opinionated. We know who we are and what we want – but for the most part, we’re figuring it out as we go. We value education, but also want the room to pursue creative interests as a serious career, and we want support from our peers and elders to achieve our goals.

We believe that racism and stereotypes are real and we identify them both the biggest challenge and motivator when it comes to achieving success. We’d like Pacific culture to be more accessible, and not just to us – but to the wider community too.

We know that we have to work twice as hard as our non-Pacific counterparts to achieve success. We know that our culture enables us to succeed, but can also present barriers that not many both within and outside of the Pacific, properly understand.

We believe there are still many challenges within our different Pacific communities that must be addressed – gender equality, climate change, freedom of speech, accessibility to education and employment opportunities, being financially savvy –but we’re also hopeful that with the right support, education and community involvement, we can overcome them.

And that’s just the start of it – if you want an idea of what our Millennials are saying, and more importantly, get to know who they are – reading these quotes, and our stories is a good place to start.


“[My work]… connects me to my cultural identity as an Australian-Fijian who is proud of the colour of my skin and the place I come from. Its always a meaningful thing to be able to use your gifts and talents to give back for others so that they would be encouraged to search for, grow and use theirs and help their community.” – Joseph Vuicakau, Musician, Dancer and Community Leader, 2016.

“I studied Fine Art on a scholarship at the San Francisco Art Institute, and Visual Culture as well as Community Cultural Development in Melbourne. In terms of what I’m most passionate about – Art, cultural identity and expression are at the center of everything I do in life, both professionally and for pleasure. FONU Jewellery is about that for me: a journey of cultural expression that is about our shared Pacific identities, and my own path as an artist.” – Anga’aefonu Bain-Vete, Founder of FONU Jewellery, 2016.

“From 2009 to 2012 I was applying for roles with my proper Fijian name – Sitiveni. In 2012 I changed my name to reflect it’s English version – Steven, and that’s when everything changed. It was ridiculous how many responses I got when I applied for jobs. If your name may be too hard to pronounce, try to make it easier for others and translate it to an English version. Is it taking away your identity? No, your identity is who you are.” – Sitiveni Koroi, Business Leader, 2015.

On culture

“I know what my culture means to me, I don’t need anyone’s validation. When you’re young, this can be hard if you want to be accepted by others. However, when you accept yourself for who you are, you won’t be easily defined by others people’s opinions.” – Lisa Jameson, Climate Change Activist, 2016.

“Although I hated history in general – they only teach you European history and such – I was always into learning our own Pacific culture and ancestors and their history. But to express that was almost impossible to share with outsiders. Teachers would think I was too radical – mostly because of the political action when our second generation hijacked a train in the 70’s – or crazy just because it does not says so according to their history books. But I never gave up my belief in our history.” – Ales Patty Matenahoru, Graphic Design and Creative Director of Nuku & Saku, 2017.

“I’ve been on a journey to understand and blend my mix of (cultures) together, rather than making them separate from one another. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen for a range of incredible opportunities that allowed me to learn a lot about myself. I’ve learnt to present one blended front – my mixed cultural background into one.” – Julia Arnott-Neenee, Graduate, Research and Evaluation Specialist, 2016.

Work Ethic

“Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I came from being a sprinter into Rugby Sevens, and all I could do was run fast. I knew I had to do a lot more than that to stay in this (Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens Olympic) team and be successful.” – Ellia Green, Australian Olympic Gold Winner and elite athlete, 2016.

“I think if people find something they want to do for the rest of their life, they’d sacrifice and do anything to get to where they want to be, and I guess that’s what I did.” – Samuel Tabuatamata, professional rugby player and leukaemia survivor, 2015

“I will always stand up and say something when I see an injustice and I will always try to work collaboratively, fairly and honestly. I think that’s all I can do for now and hope that somehow in the future this can be impactful in terms of our cultural conversation and in terms of lifting up the voices of the people and communities that I work with.” – Amie Batalibasi, filmmaker, writer, director and Pacific storyteller.

“But my best advice would be this: we Pacific Islanders are unique. Our ancestors were people of the land and sea – they travelled across vast oceans, cultivated massive fields, and lived with integrity and this innately passionate work ethic. We are blessed with natural musical talent, and limitless sporting prowess. We are an inherently nurturing, caring, and selfless people with great humour and spirit. It’s for these reasons that we would truly make the most outstanding doctors – with our steady and skilful hands in the surgical theatre, our lame jokes in the paediatric ward, or our warm presence in the room of the dying patient.” – Steven Sisifa, Medical Student, 2015.


“I’ve realised that within society, inequality, racism and injustice is alive and well. We only have to look in our backyard, where Pasifika are stereotyped as thieves, drunks, doll-bludgers and are only cherished when representing New Zealand in sports.

This is not a society that I want to be a part of and to change this, we need our Pasifika people making changes and calling the shots. I believe science is a pathway for our Pasifika academic leaders to make changes in society.” – Amy Maslen, Scientist, 2015.

“While studying in Australia, I was the only Pacific Islander in my school, and spent a lot of my time convincing people Samoa wasn’t in the middle of nowhere or in Africa, that we had coloured TV, wireless internet, street lights, air conditioned buildings, and most of our people have it pretty good with the little they have.” – Karla Leota, Creative Director and Founder of Island Thrift, 2015.


“Unless you’re specialising in a field i.e. Lawyer or a doctor, University is not necessary, and success really is anyone’s game. I always tell young people, don’t get educated so you can “get a good job”. Get educated so you can run your own business.” – Cecelia Sagote, Editor in Chief of Suga Magazine, 2017.

“I’m not dissing the importance of education and earning a well-paid job. I just feel that this mind-set about ‘good jobs’ and how it has become our only measure of success has led a lot of people unsatisfied with life and… unhappy. Because of this mindset things like art, design and dance are given secondary importance by education systems here and are considered as ‘extracurricular activities’ and encouraged as ‘hobbies’. The idea of pursuing something you’re passionate about and making a career out of it, is still a battle for our young people. When in fact these things are the very fabric of our culture.”  – Sharon Narayan, Founder of The Genda Project, 2017.

“I hope that our next generation of young Pacific people have that desire within them to work hard to achieve their goals. My advice for them would be: do not doubt yourself. Sometimes I would question myself as I went for an event position and be the only brown face in the interview, or the only mother in a classroom full of young people striving to get a Diploma. There will always be obstacles but nothing is impossible.” – Jannike Seiuli, Founder of Producer of the Pacific Runway, 2015.

“But first you need to know yourself, and in that lays your gift, your message, your keys to success. It can be a difficult process, but having the support of a coach or therapist can be a huge help.” – Adriana Lear, Musician and Media and Communications Professional, 2015.

Read more stories from our Pacific Millennials here.

Read more stories from our Pacific Millennials here. Click to Tweet

Featured photo credit: Rae Photography, Samoa.

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