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Lineage and birthright, representation

An Epsom Girls Grammar School student discusses two specific cultural identifiers: lineage and birthright that pertain to her upbringing from her family. Notions of cultural identifiers for giftedness are found in the home, and this Tongan student articulates how family and cultural values are used as a foundation to accelerate her learning and achievement at school.



Hi my name is Sela Finau, and I’ll be talking to you about what I think identifies me as a Pacific Islander that is gifted. One of the first things was my lineage and birthright, and this includes obedience, humility and respect. A key example for obedience is especially as a Tongan girl, we have to show our elders and those superior to us a different kind of respect and a different kind of obedience. For example, if I was in a classroom, and my teacher told me to do something, then I’d have obey them straight away just because they, in my belief, hold more superiority than I do and they know what they’re talking about. They are wiser, they have been here longer, we all belong somewhere and we all come from somewhere, and our past defines us. And those our ancestors and those that came before us, they identify who we are today, because without them we wouldn’t be here. Like, my Tongan values, my family’s Tongan values, everything about me is Tongan, so I identify myself as a Tongan. If you know where you came from and you know what you are here to do like, then you can apply that in school. Like for example, when I moved here to New Zealand I knew that it was for my education. And  I knew that if I came here and mucked around then my parents time, my time would be wasted so there’s no point in try to, trying to not try my best because if I didn’t try my best then what was the point of us moving here. I think that it can be applied in school because I think if you’re motivated and you know what you’re here to do then, you’ll be fine, like you know your purpose in this life and you know your purpose at this school.

Obedience for me is quite big because in my family you have to be obedient, no matter if your parents are wrong or right. Like you don’t have a say in saying, “Oh no Mum. I think that’s wrong!” like you have to accept whatever your parents say, like, you have to accept what their verdict of what your actions are. Even though sometimes that can be a disadvantage, I also think that is can build your respect towards others. So for I wouldn’t, for example, I probably have never argued with a teacher because I’ve learnt that from respect from my parents I can apply that to those in the classroom and those who are superior to me.

Relationships? Are…they’re difficult, but I think that you can attain the right kind of relationship. Then you’ll be successful for example, in Polyfest, I was able to become a role model to those girls around me.  And that definitely not only boosted my confidence but it also boosted their confidence because that if they saw someone like them achieving so highly then I think they try a bit more to reach their own goals.  If I succeeded in something then I’d want the girls around me to try and, I don’t know, to get inspired to do their best. Because, to be honest, at the moment a lot of girls aren’t reaching their full potential, and think that with the right person, or the right role model then they could probably fulfil their potential.