16 November 2019
Brisbane, AUSTRALIA: The Brisbane Tongan Community’s highly anticipated Queensland Tongan Language School had its launch on Saturday in a celebration complete with food, family and fun.
Dubbed a ‘soft launch’ by the event organisers, the Park Uniting Church Tongan Congregation at Highgate Hill played host to councillors, university representatives, community leaders, teachers and future students for a morning that consisted of formalities and family-centred activities.
Highlighting the importance of preserving and teaching the Tongan language in Australia was, Mrs Uanivā Havea, Principal of the highly successful NSW Tongan Language School from Sydney, who was a key note speaker on the day.
“By providing a platform for our children to learn the Tongan language, we are further empowering them to connect with their culture and their identity, not withstanding the fact we then allow them to think in two worlds, the Australian context as well as a Tongan context,” Uanivā said in her keynote address.
Uanivā continued with a challenge to the group of volunteer teachers who accepted the opportunity to teach Tongan.
“We need to be ahead of the game in developing our Tongan vocabulary with the evolution of new terminology and ensure we avoid Tonganising English words to see our language valued and preserved,” Uanivā added.
Brisbane City Council The Gabba Ward representative, Councillor Jonathan Sri, was in attendance to celebrate the many Tongan and bilingual resources that his office funded to ensure prospective students and teachers have the best start in their Tongan language education.
“If you teach something to someone when they are really young, it’s like engraving it in stone on their hearts, because it promotes pride and confidence in their identity,” Councillor Sri stated.
“It is so important to maintain your connection to your culture and the language of your ancestors,” he shared before mesmorising the crowd in a stirring poem about the challenges of the migration journey and barriers to integration in modern Australia.
The biggest announcement of the day was reserved for the venue that will host the primary, secondary and open adult Tongan language classes in the new year.
“After many months of approaching state schools throughout Brisbane, through the grace of God, we are thrilled beyond words to announce that classes will be held at the Griffith University, Logan Campus,” stated Brisbane Tongan Community (BTC) Public Officer, Mr Sulieni Layt.
The opportunity was made possible through a divine effort between Griffith University Careers Outreach Officer, Glenda Stanley; Ipswich State High School Success Coach, Inez Fainga‘a Manu-Sione and Griffith University Community Partnerships Co-ordinator, Associate Professor Judith Kearney.
Moreton Bay Regional Council representative, Cr Koliana Winchester (nee Saafi) spoke of her passion for the preservation of the Tongan language in Australia and presented the Brisbane Tongan Community with a cheque of $1,000.00 from her personal funds to assist with ongoing resources.
The timing of the Queensland Tongan Language School soft launch was to enable the school to be blessed, community to register in person and to ensure a streamlined commencement to the academic year in first term of 2020.
“We are really encouraged by the number of non-Tongans as well as Australian or New Zealand-born Tongans who have enrolled for classes,” BTC secretary Mrs Leilehua Fā‘onevai added.
According to the 2016 Census there are over 32,691 Australians with Tongan ancestry, 17.2% of these reside in the state of Queensland. It’s estimated that 82.3% speak the Tongan language at home fluently.
Registrations are still open for the Queensland Tongan Language School for 2020 with classes being scheduled for Saturdays between 2pm and 4pm during school term. The committee are also exploring a webinar option due to an overwhelming interest from prospective students from outside Brisbane.
Media Contact: Sulieni Layt via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile on +61(0) 420 639 764.