Dear Heather, we’re really talented, empowered – and we’re not leeches!


The Plantation Conversations video.

By Leilani Sitagata

Since media personality Heather Du Plessis-Allan’s “leech” comments late last month, some of New Zealand’s Pasifika community have responded with messages of empowerment.

Online platform Plantation Conversations has created a video compiled of people who were affected by what the broadcaster said.

PC co-founders Tara Leota and Torisse Laulu told Asia Pacific Report that after seeing a story about the “leech” comments they knew they had to do something.

READ MORE: Broadcaster Heather du Plessis-Alan under fire for Paciofic island ‘leeches’ claim

Leota says it was hard to swallow and she was “appalled” that Du Plessis-Allan would say that.

“We wanted to make a video that would empower our people who may have been hurt or disappointed by the words used by a woman in her position.”

The video includes short testimonials of Pasifika people celebrating their success. However, Leota says it wasn’t an easy task gathering people.

“We worked with those who were confident enough to be on camera, and coincidentally they were students.”

100,000 views plus
The video currently has more than 100,000 views on Facebook and numbers are still growing.

However, people have “misinterpreted our intentions” since only students were used.

“Degrees and academic achievement aren’t the only form of success.

“But they are symbolic to our parents and grandparents’ hard work, sacrifice and endurance.

“Without them we wouldn’t have achieved these degrees and attained good careers – so in a way we’re also celebrating our aiga.”

AUT’s Foundation Professor of Pacific Studies Tagaloatele Dr Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, who recently retired and took up a role with the National Commission of UNESCO, says Du Plessis-Allan’s remarks were “extremely naïve, ill-informed and actually quite inflammatory”.

Tagaloatele emphasises that New Zealand is a country closely related with the Pacific Islands.

“New Zealand considers itself a region of the Pacific. She has totally underestimated and can’t understand the trust, respect, and historic ties.”

New Zealand Pacific pride
Despite Du Plessis-Allan saying Pacific Islands are “leeching” off of New Zealand, Tagaloatele still believes the country is proud of being linked to the islands.

“I think New Zealand actually takes great pride in saying that it is a Pacific nation.”

Although it has been a few weeks since the comments were made, the Pasifika community is still supporting the idea of empowerment.

Laulu says they have had an overwhelming amount of love and support both here and overseas for their video.

“Some misinformed opinions are disappointing especially when they come from your own people, but we are happy that we are seeing a healthy discussion between those who are for and against our video.”

PC have not heard about whether Du Plessis-Allan has seen their video or not, but either way they say they are not concerned.

“We aren’t bothered if she does or doesn’t watch our video, we don’t want any more attention focused on her.

“We are just happy to see our people remain resilient and uplifted. If that’s the case, then we’ve done our job.”

Leilani Sitagata is a reporter on the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project.


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