News Item

Lisa Tai - Embracing her Rotuman roots

Success Stories 9 May 2020

Lisa Tai is Deloitte NZ's Pasifika Lead and her passion lies in providing visible opportunities for young Pacific people in professional services and working on capability building focused initiatives designed to enable Pacific communities to thrive. As New Zealand officially launches Rotuman Language week on Sunday 10 May 2020, Lisa shared with PCF how she embraces her Rotuman culture, her experience as a mentor for the PCF NZ Scholarships Internship programme and how she is coping during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Noa’ia 'e mauri Lisa, thank you for your time and willingness to share a bit about yourself. First of all, how are you doing since the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown?

COVID19 has certainly rewritten the rules for all of us – as individuals, as families, as organisations and as a community. This situation has required so many of us to ‘pivot’ – to revisit the way we serve our clients and communities, to consider the way we engage with our teams and to find the best way to utilise our resources and expertise. COVID19 demands resilient leadership – and I’m so proud to work for an organisation (Deloitte) that has demonstrated resilient leadership in spades!

How have you been able to help the Pacific region in their response to COVID-19?

From a personal perspective – I see very little distinction between the region and us (in NZ). Our connections to the Pacific run deep – we’re connected by history and culture but more importantly by family – we are a collective. To date, our focus has been on supporting Pasifika organisations/businesses in Aotearoa by partnering with PBT to support their COVID19 response by facilitating Business Workshops. We are very open and keen to support our brothers and sisters in the Pacific and certainly keen to explore how we can assist further.

With Rotuman Language Week being officially launched in New Zealand from May 10 - 16 2020, can you explain to us your Rotuman background?

My mum (Lilly Lee nee Mario) is full Rotuman and is from the village of Itumuta. My grandparents are Kanagsau Mario and Akerio Mario. I am a proud Rotuman!

Rotuma may be one of the smaller nations in the Pacific (located 646km north of Fiji, is 13km long and 4km wide and with a population of 1,600 (as at 2017) but we punch well above our weight! We have a rich culture with a distinct language and our customs and traditions are beautiful!

This is the first year our Rotuman language has been included in the official Aoteroa Pacific Language Week programme – it is the culmination of a lot of hard work and effort by our community (especially our strong Rotuman leaders and elders) – it is super exciting and great recognition for our people!

What initiatives have you been involved with to promote Rotuman language and culture?

My family has participated in the online Rotuman Language Programme - #LoveMyLanguage2.0 (RakLaFaeagRotuam). I have always wanted to learn the language (which my mum speaks fluently) but apart from a couple of basic words and phrases, I have really struggled to pick it up (It’s a very linguistically complex language!). The online programme has been a god-send for me and for my family – the online aspect has suited us and I’ve been blown away by the presentation and content within the programme – it is really impressive! For anyone that is interested in learning the language – I strongly recommend this programme (including non-Rotumans).

Why is it important for us as a Pacific collective to get behind the Rotuman language and culture?

Rotuma is one of the smaller Pacific Island Nation and I would love to see all of us supporting and repping our smaller Pacific island nations. It is so important that we all do our part to keep the language, culture and traditions alive – not only for our own cultures – but for all Pacific cultures.

Turning to the PCF NZ Scholarships internship programme, we were fortunate to have you as our guest speaker at our orientation last year as well as mentoring our interns. From a host agency perspective, how has hosting an intern benefitted you and Deloitte?

Last year we were blessed to have Encie and Leyla join Deloitte as part of the PCF internship programme. We loved having them as part of the Deloitte team and they excelled (they represented their families and communities exceptionally well).

As Pasifika, it is easy to undervalue the strength and benefits we bring to the table – we have so much to offer and teach others – we often underestimate the value we bring.Encie and Leyla contributed to Deloitte from a technical and work/client perspective – but they also have unique experiences and lessons to share with us all - this is cultural capital and the value of this should not be underestimated.

What message do you have for future interns or Pacific scholars who are thinking of applying for the internship?

Apply and apply now! It is a fantastic experience - you are provided with the opportunity to learn from experts in your chosen field but it is also an opportunity for you to teach others! Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table!

I am more than happy to be contacted directly for any questions, please feel free to email me at

Fai’aksea, Lisa.

Image: Lisa Tai (centre) with PCF summer interns of 2019 - 2020, Encie Hilarai (left) and Leyla Niowenmal (right).