Speech | 13 Dec, 2023

Welcoming speech - First Day as Regional Director for Oceania

O paia ma mamalu o lenei aso, o le a popo ia se fa’amatalaga aua o paia ma mamalu e tumau e oo i le fa’avavau. O sā foi ma faiga o le paia maualuga o lenei Ofisa mamalu, o le a ufi pea ia i paga, aua o mamalu e le tau fa’afuluina. Ae manatu e ao pea ona ou mua’i fa’atulou atu i le paia o eleele sa ma tapu a fanua o Suvavou nei, tulou, tulouna ia, tulouna lava!

Ae ua faamalo le lagi soifua, faafetai o lea ua malu aau fuemalu le fa’amoemoe; ua a'e ma le manuia le tatou folauga; ua sau ai nei e va’a na tiu, tau mai le va’a na tau, a o loo mamau pea lago o le va’a na faō afolau! Tatou fa’afo’i la le vi’iga i le Atua ona o lona alofa fa’asoasoa mai mo i tatou.

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Photo: ORO Regional Director, Leituala Kuiniselani Toelupe Tago

At the outset, I want to pay my respects to the landowners of this land, I acknowledge the management team of IUCN Oceania, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen Ni sa bula Vinaka, Talofa lava and greetings!!!

I’m pleased to be here today on my first day as your Regional Director, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of an amazing team, a great organisation and the world’s largest, oldest and most diverse environment organisation. Thank you for the sevusevu, the traditional welcome and for the reception you have out on today. I am humbled by this gesture but feel extremely proud to be a Pasefika woman this morning. Our cultural heritage as people of the Blue Pacific, as people of the Ocean remains intact and remains to be the glue that keeps us connected and keeps us together as a Pasefika family. You have demonstrated that this morning, reminding us of our roots as Pasefika people and our history as sisters and brothers of this great ocean that keeps us all connected as one Pasefika family. Vinaka vaka levu, it is nice to come home to Fiji and to be received in this way.

Let me also acknowledge the efforts of the team that were instrumental in facilitating my onboarding process – under the leadership of Maria as our Acting Regional Director, Jignasha, our travel team, my apologies if I have forgotten some names, Save for picking me up from Nadi, not forgetting our Regional Director Dindo and HR personnel Param, our Director General for her support so far, you’ve all been wonderful and I thank you sincerely for all the work that has gone into ensuring that I get on board and arrive here safely. I also thank Tanya for being here this week, recognising her role in the onaboarding process and the support she will provide in ensuring that I am fully across our work, towards delivering for the team and for our people! Fa’afetai lava, Vinaka vaka levu.

This morning perhaps presents a historical moment for IUCN Oceania as you welcome your very first woman Regional Director having worked with two great gentlemen who paved the way for IUCN in the Pacific and for whom I am grateful for in terms of leading the work to where it is today, allowing me the opportunity to continue to navigate our vaka into the future for the next two years and beyond, God willing! But that said, working with women leaders is not something that is completely new to you all, as since the departure of Mr Mason Smith, you’ve all been blessed with the leadership and guidance of Ms Maria Muavesi who has held the fort as the Acting Regional Director to today – Fa’afetai and Vinaka Maria.

Well colleagues, I don’t intend to give you a long maiden work speech, I just wanted to make a few acknowledgements where it’s due and to thank you all for a warm welcoming reception. Having done that, I want to close with a few reflections!!

Our success as a team is dependent on all of our individual successes. As your Regional Director, my strength and success as a leader is dependent on the support of those working alongside and beside me. The same principle applies across the rest of the organisation, which means we each have a responsibility and a role to play in ensuring that we all succeed and that we will all win!

No one wants to lose that’s for sure, we know that in our experiences when it comes to rugby, and certainly when Fiji plays against Samoa… we all want to win and that win for us as individuals and for the team is dependent upon our individual efforts, which means it doesn’t matter where you are on that rugby field, it doesn’t matter where you are on the organisational structure, we each have a role to play, and that’s the basic maths of accountability – holding ourselves accountable, holding each other accountable as members of the Team, and being accountable as regional public servants serving our people in Oceania!

And so as a team, I would like to think that as we begin a new chapter today, let’s take a minute to pause and reflect on where we are and how we’re really doing as team, using the rugby team on the field analogy… recognising our individual value as members of the team, and the fact that, your captain or your skipper, cannot do this on her own, that your front row cannot do this on their own, that your backs cannot do this on their own!!! but that ONLY the WHOLE TEAM AND OUR WHOLE EFFORT AS THE ONE TEAM CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN... AND THAT … WILL BRING US THE WIN THAT WE NEED!

So, Let’s do this Team IUCN Oceania, let’s work together towards getting that win for IUCN and most especially for our people of the Blue Pacific Continent. Vinaka Vakalevu, Soifua ma ia Manuia!