Breaking Down Barriers for Members


Breaking Down Barriers for Members

With the conclusion of Niuean Language Week 2019 on October 19, we talk to NZCU Employees Manager Ahukona Hatalafale, commonly known as Kona.

He promotes the benefits of bilingual staff for Pacific members, understanding and responding to member’s financial needs and his own Niuean heritage.

“I was born on the island of Niue, my family is from the village of Mutalau,” says Kona, who moved to New Zealand from Niue with his mother and siblings at the tender age of four.

“Dad came over here first so he could save enough money to bring mum and the rest of us all over. There were six of us siblings in total, and grandad as well. I remember him living with us.”

Having grown up in a Niuean-speaking environment, Kona says he and his siblings had no choice but to speak Niuean, as both his parents spoke little English. He is not only grateful for growing up in such a nurturing environment, but glad that it has helped him significantly in terms of communication, both in his personal and professional life.

“I speak Niuean when I see my mum because she only speaks a little bit of English, but it’s good as it keeps me on top of my Niuean speaking ability.”

That ability comes in handy at NZCU Employees, comprised of a member base that is approximately 90% Pacific and/or Maori.

With a few Niuean credit union members on board, Kona says conversing with them in their own language is a simple yet effective way of breaking down barriers to understanding important financial matters.

Kona knows language is a huge barrier for Pacific members accessing products and services that could benefit them financially.

Having run financial literacy classes through ANZ and understanding the credit union, Kona has more insight into what NZCU Employees can do for Pacific people with regard to financial wellbeing.

“We can provide products and services that we know and understand there is a real need for,” says Kona, who cites funeral insurance as one such product.

“Products like funeral insurance assist people so funerals are not such a financial burden on the family.

“It means one can take out a funeral plan policy at sometimes $5/$10 per week for cover, and you can choose your sum insurance $5000, $10,000, $15,000 or up to $25,000. It’s a low cost insurance policy and we have a good group of our members on it.”

Another one is home loans, because a home means stability for the whole family. For Kona, it’s about catering to the members’ needs and capability.

“It’s not just about the product, there’s a lot behind it and the understanding of Pacific people and their needs in order to develop these products helps us to assist them financially,” he says.

“It gives us a better understanding of members, and if we can speak in their language then it also gives them a better understanding of how something like funeral insurance will help them on how home loans work.

“That way they can ask us questions that they wouldn’t normally ask in a typical bank interview communicated in English.”

Often members with limited English sit there and nod their heads, but do not really understand what’s going on. Being able to offer bilingual staff that helps break down barriers gives more understanding.

If you would like to speak to any of our staff about any products and services contact us.