Bridging the Gap – An Interview with Josiah Tualamali’i

26 March 2018

Josiah Tualamali’i is only 22 years old but this young New Zealand-born Samoan already has a lengthy list of achievements where youth advocacy and governance is concerned.

Josiah in Niue

In Niue with Stephen Goodman (MNZM), CEO Volunteer Service Abroad, on the Prime Minister’s Pacific Mission

Josiah grew up in Ōtepoti Dunedin and then Ōtautahi Christchurch in a busy family of five boys, his Samoan dad, Australian-Kiwi mum and grandparents. He’s passionate about ensuring that young people have a voice and he cares about Pacific young people being visible and influential in decision-making. At age 14, he was part of the first Pacific Youth Parliament (PYP1) and from there he was hooked.

“I could see that being ‘afakasi – or being an ‘edge walker’ – moving between the palagi and Samoan worlds, I had something to offer and that there were so many more young people like me,” he says.

After PYP1, Josiah and some of his peers got together and decided that they could be part of a movement of Pacific young people participating in democracy. Through their membership of the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Council (PYLAT), strong involvement in advocacy and governance beckoned:

“We ran events to ensure Pacific youth were speaking into key issues that affected Aotearoa like deep sea oil drilling, the living wage, and our justice system. We wrote these up and sent them to decision makers.

Along the way, we also were invited onto different boards to ensure Pacific young people’s voices were well heard. We became involved in the wellbeing space when we started working with Le Va, who want Pacific families to have the best possible health and wellbeing outcomes.

We kept growing and now we sit on 17 boards to ensure young people’s voices are well heard, we also give advice to adults, Government and decision makers on how to best engage with Pacific young people. Our purpose now is to empower Pacific young people to participate in all worlds!”

While the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which New Zealand has signed says that the Government must ‘consider the impact on children of policies and decisions, and to consult children on decisions that affect them[1]’, Josiah has an even more compelling rationale for including the youth voice.

“Beyond the legal reason, young people bring innovative ideas, and in developing and including youth voice, we are scaffolding for the future.”

Josiah has been the recipient of many awards including a 2015 Youth Week Change Maker Award which recognised his work in his community. He says this recognition helped ‘affirm the value of what we are doing for Pacific young people’ and he’s keen to encourage others to nominate young people for the New Zealand Youth Awards 2018.

“If you know a young person out there doing something phenomenal, this is one really awesome way for our country to find out about it. I have made lifelong friends from that evening at the awards ceremony and the new relationships you can make and new ideas you can come back with are super useful.”

The list of honours and achievements don’t end there. He won the 2016 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award for Leadership and Inspiration, and at 18 years of age, he was elected the Chairperson of PYLAT. He was also named as a winner of the 2017 SunPix Pacific Emerging Leadership Award sponsored by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern. Hon Megan Woods & Josiah

L-R: Josiah, Hon Dr. Megan Woods and Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

Along with Sarah Gwynn, he recently represented Aotearoa New Zealand at the Commonwealth Youth Parliament in Jersey, Channel Islands. He had this say about the experience:

“The two of us came away with a greater understanding of how different parliaments work around the world. In Jersey, they don’t have major parties like us; the majority of Members of Parliament are all independent which means there is a very different type of politics. While there, Sarah and I spent a lot of time with people representing Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It’s further impressed on me how decision makers must be mindful of our global history, and the role we must play to work with our countries as equals and be careful not to dismiss diversity.”

Earlier this month, Josiah accompanied Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern on the Prime Minister’s Pacific Mission to Tonga, Samoa, Niue, and the Cook Islands. While there, he was interviewed by TV1 Samoa – you can view it here.

Lastly, Josiah was invited to sit on the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction[2] panel, established by the Government to develop recommendations around mental health and addiction services. As the youngest member, he says he’s excited to be in a position to support the youth voice shaping the recommendations given to Government so that services provided are the best possible. He wants young people to get in touch:

“Soon we will be releasing a consultation document and will be travelling around Aotearoa New Zealand to hear solutions! Anyone can contact us now though, and check out our website. Our email is and we are using the hashtag #NZInquiry18 on social. So hit us up!”

It seems to us that with Josiah involved, young people and their needs will be front and centre.