Hema Fifita

New South Wales
Educator, language advocate

Migrating from Tonga at age eight was a big culture shock for Hema. She found it hard to connect classroom learning with her life at home, where storytelling, singing and collective participation was the norm. Now a teacher and the mother of children who speak both English and Tongan, Hema is passionate about community language education and the benefits of bilingual education. She is working to bring back storytelling through a picture book series written in Tongan, Samoan and English. It will engage reluctant readers using Kamishibai, which is a highly visual Japanese storytelling form. Her series of 10 bilingual picture books will target the growing number of Pasifika students in New South Wales – as well as across Australia and overseas. By promoting community languages, Hema aims to help build stronger, more cohesive communities.

Hema Fifita