25 years ago my Aunties and Uncles started a Catholic community for Tongans based in Melbourne, Australia.
In 1994 they started the Tongan Catholic Community at Sacred Heart Preston.
I have great memories growing up with my cousins learning our culture and language.
After Church my uncle Daniel who was a youth leader would take the kids to McDonald’s on Bell St Preston or Foodstar on Plenty Rd.
Other times we would gather at my Aunty Pauline and Uncle Daniel’s house around the corner from the church to practice our choir songs, eat and celebrate family times.
When new families move to Melbourne we would organise a little welcome dinner or meal and it was always a great feeling being involved with a community.
I remember preparing to perform a traditional Tongan dance for community gatherings.
Our traditional dance incorporates graceful movements, upright standing form with our National costume.
I used to be so scared that I’d forget the movements.
I’ve come full circle now as my 4yo daughter performed her very first dance just like I did all those years ago!
We were so proud!
So now our community is just a few families as people move further away and Interstate.
The thing I love about our community is that it’s a place to slow down and enjoy your family, say thank you for all the good things you have in your life, look to draw help and support from when times are tough and it’s a commitment that my Family enjoys.
Looking forward to maintaining our traditions and keeping the culture alive.
Did you have a babysitter when you were growing up? Or did you have an older cousin, auntie or relative stay with you and your Family?
I had a couple of Aunties stay with us over different periods of time.
At the time being a young girl I thought it was fun to have more people around to play with.
But as I got older and now being a Mum I now understand that the Family that stayed with us actually helped my parents in looking after me and my sisters.
This is very common in Pacific Island culture as we can offer relatives in the Islands to come to Australia to help. It also benefits them as they get to travel overseas and see an opportunity to stay in Australia.
Special shout out to my Aunties – Liz, Tai, Moli and Lita who helped raise my sisters and I 🙂
Some Australian Families may not have that support and so they may try a service like hiring a Babysitter or trying a cultural exchange like Au Pairs. (Au pair is a foreign young person who helps with cleaning and babysitting in exchange for food, a room and pocket money).
This is a challenge that couples will face as their families grow especially if both Mum and Dad decide to keep working.
In our particular case we chose to have Mum stay home full time and Dad work.
That choice means that I’ll be responsible for a lot of the home duties and everything that comes with it.
But at times it nice to have help like when my Mum stays with me over the weekend, or if we have a Family celebration and when my sisters visit with their kids and we head off to the local playground!
As you know baby #3 is on the way and I will be relying more on the things that make me feel happy and healthy!
Often I think about how we used to live as a community.
We lived together in the ‘Village’.
The ‘Village’ could mean anything to you.
It could be the sleepy village on a rolling hill in England, the mud brick house in Africa, the shack in Vietnam or the open walled fale (house) in the Pacific Islands.
Today the Village appears more and more ‘disconnected’.
We’re rushing to meet deadlines, pay bills for things we don’t need, chase appointments, snap the perfect selfies, respond to the social media notification, rush through your day, no ‘time’ to do important things…. the list goes on.
How about pausing long enough to enjoy the smile of the stranger who greets you? The stories of old neighbours of how things used to be? Volunteering to help someone in need?
The Village in Tonga has the whole community to help each other.
The Village supports the families by cooking meals together, spending time with each other, Women are upheld as important child bearers, Men are respected as hunters and protectors and we live happily together.
Doesn’t that sound awesome?
It also sounds like from a time long long ago!
But no, this still happens today.
When I visited Tonga last year I felt the same connection.
Travelling to Bali and getting out of the big city I saw that people live a simple happy life. Having been to Fiji people can live in a corrugated iron shack but they’re happy.
As we prepare for Baby #3 I’m mindful that the environment we chose to raise our kids should be one like the ‘Village’.
We’ll eat together, laugh and cry together, support and love each until we’re all connected again in our new Australian ‘Village’.