6 Jun 2017
All Black great and dedicated servant to Pacific society Laauli Michael Jones has been made Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM). The long-serving Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) Board member was awarded his 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the Pacific community and youth.
Michael is arguably one of the best flankers to ever grace the No7 jersey during the 55 tests he played for the All Blacks, in a career interrupted by two knee reconstructions and a broken jaw.
It is his work off the field, however, that has seen him honoured with a KNZM, the second highest level of the NZ Order of Merit.
Michael founded and is chairman of Village Community and Youth Trust, which started as a way of helping keep Pacific and Maori youth out of gang activity and has grown to include a sports academy and mentoring programmes.
"I feel very privileged, and humbled," Michael says of his honour.
"[Helping Pacific Island and Maori] youth is an area of my life I feel very passionate about.
“I'm mindful that so many people have paved the way for me and I have so many people on this journey with me helping me.
“There are others in our community doing just as important and transformational work as we do here."
The Village was based on the kaupapa, "it takes a village to raise a child", and Michael drew on his own family's experience as inspiration.
His father died when he was four, leaving him with his "loving" mother and an entire community.
"Growing up in West Auckland, we didn't have much, but I was rich in terms of the people around me - I was raised by a village, not just my mum, my aunties and uncles and cousins, but my coaches, my teachers, my pastors, the church,” he adds.
Michael has been instrumental in establishing the Pacific Peoples Advancement Trust, which established and sponsors the Pacific Advance Senior School, opened in 2015, to raise educational achievement of Pacific students.
Currently, he is the Strategic Relationships Manager for Matson South Pacific Limited (Matson) and is a key member of their strategic management team, heading the Bulk Fuels division.
A matai in Samoa, Michael holds many positions of influence in the Auckland Pacific community; and as a committed Christian who refused to play rugby on Sundays, there is a missionary zeal to Michael’s work and life after rugby.
"Rugby was a wonderful [part] of my life but I realised I had to use the platform it gave me, the influence I can use to put good teams and people together for a cause."
Chief Executive Officer for PCF Laulu Mac Leauanae says as an organisation, PCF is blessed and privileged to have benefitted from Michael’s presence and leadership during his time as a Board member.
“Michael has been a long-serving active member of our Board since 2009, and we are delighted for him receiving this great honour,” Mac says.
(Picture caption: Sir Michael Jones - centre - with John Pulu - left - and Sione Taufa at the recent Pacific-NZ Fisheries Forum, co-hosted by PCF and PITIA.)