January 13, 2011

Children from Tonga, New Zealand, and Australia

While visiting New Zealand, my family and I spent time with an Australian Tongan family. They come to New Zealand annually to visit relatives, to participate in the Tongan church, and keep in touch with their language and cultural heritage. We were invited to join them at the Saturday beach picnic that followed the Tongan church’s week of prayer. There were about 100 people at the picnic: from grandmothers to babies and all the children played and were cared for by the whole community. People ate, shared stores in Tongan and English, swam, kayaked, and later the men and boys played rugby league in the ankle-deep water.

We were very welcomed and I learned a lot about Tongan culture and language, particularly from two women: one who is a social worker working with Pacifica people, and one who is a high school teacher. Some of the things that they mentioned are that church and community is very important. At church events there is always a lot of food so that no one in the community is hungry. Women are respected. Tongan people are happy, and will often laugh seemingly for no reason. Not all of the grandparents can speak English, so speaking with their family is one motivation for children to learn and retain Tongan. My friends are fortunate to be able to visit New Zealand annually to retain their family, cultural and linguistic heritage.

Hugo (2010) describes circular migration in Australia where many families migrate from their homeland, to Australia, to their homeland, and back to Australia. Many more families in Australia have circular visiting where this pattern occurs regularly, but for shorter periods of time. This circularity in Australia’s people continues to enhance our cultural and linguistic diversity and heritage.

Hugo, G. (2010). Circularity, reciprocity, and return: An important dimension of contemporary transnationalism. ISSBD Bulletin, 58(2), 2-5.