Moving from Kiribati to Auckland through the Pacific Access Category

In Kiribati, Ritia Tioti had just qualified as a midwife when the news came through that she’d been accepted under the Pacific Access Category to come to New Zealand.

“I had been applying to the scheme for a number of years, so when I was finally accepted, while the timing wasn’t perfect, I could not turn it down,” says Ritia.

Ritia Tioti

In November 2011 she left her husband Kaeden and three children, Elizelle, Tiana and Joseph (who was just five months old) and came to New Zealand alone. Her first stop was Auckland. “I had relatives there and I was able to stay with my aunt. It didn’t take long to find a job – two days after sending out an application I got a call from an Aged Care home in Hobsonville and I started work pretty much straight away.”

Ritia’s eldest daughter started primary school in Auckland, and again, with helpful teachers, settled well.

“We wanted to come to New Zealand for the children – we now have four – to give them a better education and hopefully a better life.”

Practise speaking English as much as you can... You have to be prepared to make mistakes, not be shy or scared."

Ritia Tioti

Ritia’s long-term goal is to work as a midwife in New Zealand, but for that she will have to do extra study. Her priority now is to support her family. 

Kiribati’s future is uncertain. The tiny Pacific nation is threatened by rising water levels predicted by global climate change. “It was hard saying goodbye to friends and family, but we felt we were making the right decision to come to New Zealand. And there has been absolutely no pressure from our family in Kiribati to send money home. We cannot afford that.”

The family found living in Auckland expensive and so they made another tough decision; they moved to Wellington. They are now settled in Porirua and Ritia, who again found a job almost immediately, is working for BUPA Aged Care in Papakowhai. Early on, the family received financial assistance from the Inland Revenue Department in the form of weekly family tax credits and from the Ministry of Social Development they received an accommodation supplement and help with kindergarten fees.

Again, the children are making good progress, with two daughters now at Rangikura Primary School in Ascot Park. “My second daughter is in her first year and all I’ve heard from her teachers is that she’s very good, not shy, and has settled well. Both the girls are speaking English amazingly – I have to remind them to speak Kiribati as well.”

Ritia says Wellington has been a good choice for her and her family; the only thing she doesn’t like is the weather.

“I miss the sunshine, but we are renting a house and I like my job. BUPA are good to work for. I admit I struggled at first, working in Aged Care – some old people can be difficult at times, even grumpy, so I had to get used to that.” 

And what Ritia also found difficult was “working in English”. 

“I am lucky that I learnt English at school and that my nursing training in Kiribati was in English, but I’ve never had to speak it at work before, so I had to quickly adjust to that.” But she knows her English will need to be even better if she is to work as a nurse in New Zealand.

In Kiribati we worried less about time, but in New Zealand I have to work quicker

Ritia Tioti

“If I was giving advice to other people from Kiribati planning on moving to New Zealand, it would be to learn and practise speaking English as much as you can. I would encourage people to speak freely and confidently even when their English is not perfect. You have to be prepared to make mistakes, not be shy or scared.” 

Ritia will still have to pass an IELTS test before doing additional nursing training. 

She is glad Whitireia Polytechnic is close by. Whitireia offers English language classes and a range of nursing courses, including competency assessment programmes, postgraduate specialist courses and a Bachelor of Nursing Pacific, designed for Pacific students and focusing on the health needs of Pasifika peoples. 

BUPA provides on-the-job, practice-relevant training, and Ritia has found that beneficial. “I have had to learn good time-management skills. In New Zealand there is more clock watching and working to a timetable. In Kiribati we worried less about the time, but in New Zealand I have to work quicker. Sometimes with old people that’s not so easy, and at first I felt quite pressured. But talking things over and learning from colleagues has helped me a lot.”

Ritia Tioti and family

"I was nervous for them, but my two girls really loved going to school and made friends fast."

Ritia Tioti

And apart from the rough Wellington weather and missing the daily catch of fresh fish and drinking coconut toddy juice, life for the Tioti family is coming together well.

“I would like to share two phrases from my country which are the most important and useful words that are commonly used.

“Kam na mauri” – hello to everyone.

“Te mauri, teraoi, ao te tabomoa” – health, peace and prosperity.

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