News and stories / Living and breathing aroha in action

01 March 2024

Daniel Filemoni wears more hats than most. A father of two, a husband, an uncle, a sports coach, and a strong advocate for autism awareness are among his many identities. “I guess you could say I’ve got a bit on the go,” he laughs.  

Daniel, who is based in Porirua, leads the Pasifika Autism Support Group (PASG). It’s a role he took on two years ago, after his 6-year-old son, Tavita, was diagnosed with autism and global development delay.   

“It’s a space for Pacific parents and carers for people who are autistic to connect, share experiences, and bring awareness of autism to the Pacific community,” he says. 

Starting out with just a handful of families, the group’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past year, with about 60 families now involved.  

“There’s a need for a safe space, not just for Pacific parents, but for anyone who is on this journey and navigating what it means for them. A lot of the families are just newly diagnosed.”

Learning from our children

Daniel says his son is one of his greatest teachers in life, having taught him to adopt a new mindset and way of thinking.  

“One thing I’ve learned from my journey was not to identify autism as a condition my son has, but to see it as part of my son’s identity. Once I understood that I was able to advocate for that sort of language in my space, in my church and my communities. 

“You’ve got to keep up the same energy in all aspects of life.” 

When Daniel’s not hosting a PASG meet, he can be found on the sports field. A self-confessed sports-mad Dad, Daniel has been coaching his daughter, 10-year-old Linetta, in rugby since she was in nappies.  

“She’s the queen of my heart. I started teaching her basic skills when she was three and I’ve been coaching the teams she’s been involved in ever since. 

“We’re always playing games. When she brings friends over we’ll get out in the backyard and play rugby or netball. I also play rugby myself, so it’s something we can do together.”

Celebrating Te Rā o Ngā Tamariki 

While Daniel believes in celebrating children every day of the year, March 3 is a day that he plans to spend reflecting, spending time with his kids, and practising gratitude for everything he’s grateful for.  

“Children’s Day is about acknowledging those before us, those with us, and appreciating and accepting what we need to do to go forward. 

“It’s a day for everyone – at the end of the day we were all children – it’s a day where we take the time to embrace our whys, and our whys have always been our kids.” 

Visit the Children's Day website to learn more(external link)