The Tokelau community in New Zealand has a long-standing history spanning more than 70 years.
Tokelau has been administered by New Zealand since 1925. In 1948, New Zealand annexed Tokelau, and Tokelauans received New Zealand citizenship.
In 1951 there were just 10 Tokelauans recorded in the New Zealand census. But in the late 1950s and 60s, the number migrating started to increase, including students who came on Government scholarships from 1963. Partly because of concerns that Tokelau’s population of 1,900 was too high for the small islands, the New Zealand government widened the scope of assisted passage to include family groups, as well as unmarried migrants.
Migration increased further after a tropical cyclone in 1966 damaged the Tokelau islands. It was at this time the Tokelau Resettlement Scheme was introduced from1966 to 1976, heralding a new wave of Tokelauans relocating to New Zealand.
The Atafu Tokelau Community Group in Wellington was founded by these pioneers and first settlers who were in search of better opportunities in education and employment for their families in the home islands and in New Zealand.
Whilst our inception was birthed from humble beginnings, we are proud of our many successes to date. We remain committed to recasting Atafu Tokelau’s future direction, as a testimony to this legacy and the benefit of future generations still to come.
Photo: Some of the early Tokelau migrants who helped to establish the Atafu Tokelau community in Wellington in the 1960s and 1970s.
Home Away From Home
In 1978, the Atafu Tokelau Community Group purchased land in Porirua and built a community hall named Matauala (another name for Atafu) that was officially opened in 1987. A major undertaking for a small community that had bold ambitions to create a 'home away from home'.
Matauala has and continues to be a focal point for the Tokelau community in Wellington but the centre has also served the needs of the wider community such as: hosting delegations from overseas; facilitating government agency engagements; holding launch events; family reunions and gatherings; and hosting local school students, teachers and families.
Only 3 years after the land was pruchased, the Atafu Tokelau Community Group was formally registered as an incorporated society in March 1981. It became a charitable trust in 2009.
The organisation remains true to its humble beginnings and objectives:
Providing an organisation where members combine and work together to promote the social, cultural, educational development, health and welfare of the people in the Tokelau community and other people interested in Tokelau activities;
To manage and effectively operate a community centre that serves the needs of its community.
The collective asset value for Atafu Tokelau Community Group is currently estimated at $4.5 million. This consists of the Matauala community facility and landspace, and a residential property which is leased to tenants for a period of 3 years which assists them into home ownership or the rental market.
The vision and inspiration of Matauala is a centre we can call our own. This is an investment for future generations to continue the Atafu ethos and culture as a model that ensures our family structures, values, culture and traditions are maintained.
Photos above of the community hall Matauala under construction and the completed building. Video of the 1987 Matauala Opening Event is available on the page linked here.
Cover Photo: In 2008 ‘Hikuleo i te Papa o Tautai’ was published, a record of the traditional fishing lore of Tokelauan elders who immigrated to New Zealand from Atafu atoll in the 1960s and 1970s. The elders gathered at Matauala community hall to share their memories, which were written down by hand.
Cover Photo: Entirely in Tokelauan - Compiled by the Tokelau Wellington Leadership Group, supported by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Alagākupu Tokelau is a collection of proverbs intended to ignite interest, conversations and new initiatives about the maintenance of the Tokelau language.
As an organisation that has been well established for many decades we highlight key achievements that reflects our various successes in the areas of culture, language, education resources and publications, contributions to national events and community services to Tokelau-New Zealand.
Key highlights include:
Purchase of land and Matauala facility 1978 and community facility opening in 1987;
Constitution and registration as an Incorporated Trust 1981;
Convened traditional carving and weaving programmes by elders;
Our venue has been used to host visiting school for trips, church groups, overseas delegations and numerous government agency-community meetings;
Deployed various educational homework classes, holiday programmes, children’s celebrations, social event, aerobics classes and quiz family events over the years
Registration as a Charities Trust in 2009
Mind Your Language Project (2006-2009)
In partnership with the Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs the Tokelau community deployed a Tokelau pilot language project developing language learning resources. A website, a calendar and language learning booklet was produced and launched in 2009.
Tokelau Publications (2008-2012)
We have also undertaken publications in the Tokelau language. In 2008‘Hikuleo i te Papa o Tautai’ (pictured). It records the traditional fishing lore of Tokelauan elders who immigrated to New Zealand from Atafu atoll in the 1960s and 1970s. The elders gathered at Matauala community hall in Porirua to share their memories, which were written down by hand. These memories form the basis of the book which was supported by Creative New Zealand and the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board. It was published in English as Echoes at Fishermen's Rock: Traditional Tokelau Fishing in 2012 with the support of New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. An PDF version of Echoes at Fishermen's Rock is available for reading on this website.
This community were also contributors to the first publication of Tokelau proverbs by the Tokelau Wellington Leadership Group in 2011, Alagākupu Tokelau . More than 200 proverbs, written in the Tokelau language, were collated by various elders from across the Wellington region. Each proverb is accompanied by an explanation and meaning offered by the contributor. Publication of the book was funded by the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.
A case study was undertaken on the Matauala Hall and project, written by Tioni Vulu and Paula Faiva as part of A Qualitative study into Pacific Perspectives on Cultural Obligations and Volunteering by the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit in March 2010.
Tokelau Language Week in New Zealand (2012)
We were one of the founding organisations through the Tokelau Wellington Leadership Group to establish the Tokelau Language Week event in New Zealand since 2012. This is a national event celebrated by all Tokelau-New Zealanders every October. Atafu also participated in the first Tokelau Po Fatele of all three villages in 2015.
Tokelau Traditional Vaka Project from (2011 - 2012)
You can see more information, videos and photos on this page of the website.
Pacific Heritage Award Recipients (2013)
We were successful in being granted Creative New Zealand funding for the building of a Tokelau vaka (canoe) project in 2011 totalled $20,000. This was an intergenerational project of traditional canoe builders passing on traditional knowledge and skills to the younger generation. We completed the project and was recognised for a Pacific Heritage Award in 2013.
Launch of Te Kanava Strategy 2017-2021
In January 2017, the group's 5-year strategy was launched. While some of the plans outlined in the later years of the strategy were thwarted by the 2020 Covid pandemic, the strategy still provides a foundational platform for the organisation's strategic direction and future aspirations.
Photo Caption: Atafu elders involved in writing Hikuleo i te Papa o Tautai about traditional fishing inTokelau.
First row (left to right) Amusia Patea, Elia Tilielu, Niu Sila Taupe, Taula Atoni, Lua Kava Lepaio.
Second row (left to right) Malo Koena Elia, Erupi Gaualofa, Patuki Isaako, Pio Kuresa, Teliu Timoteo, Lotomau Fao.
Not present in the photo: Loimata Iupati, Kalamelu Nouata, Teaku Petaia, Iuta Elia Tinielu, Afa Setu Faavae, Sakalia Tavita, Tausaga Apineru, Samuelu Sakalia.
35th Anniversary of Matauala Hall Celebrated
On 27 October 2022, the Atafu Tokelau Community Group in Porirua celebrated the vision of the early Atafu pioneers who built the Matauala Hall 35 years ago, a cultural and meeting centre for our community - the first Pacific group in Aotearoa-New Zealand to build an ethnic facility that wasn't church-based.
The group bought the land in 1978, broke ground in 1981 and the Hall was officially opened by the then Mayor of Porirua John Burke on 18 April 1987.
The theme of the celebration event was "Healoa na Tagavae i te One", commemorating the "Footprints in the Sand" - the indelible footprints and legacy that our pioneering and founding fathers and mothers have left us. The event was a journey or timeline of events and highlights over those 35 years through photographs, memorabilia, videos and stories. (Photos below)
Tokelau Language Week (2018)
The Atafu Tokelau Community Group has played a leadership role in the Tokelau Language Week programme since the beginning, along with other Tokelau community groups.
Tagata Pasifika covered the celebration in 2018 that was hosted at Matauala in Porirua.