“We want to be treated equally like everyone else and not be discriminated against,” says newly-appointed president Valentino Wichman.
“All we want is love and acceptance.”
“There have been challenges along the way, however we have evolved.”
Another focus they are steadily working on is to decriminalise homosexuality.
Valentino said they understood people had a difficult time accepting Rainbow people, but Te Tiare was open to conversation and seeking a middle ground.
“We do take their comments on board and try to understand where they are coming from.”
Education and empowerment is also a concept at the forefront of the organisations goals.
The idea is to encourage people that they can be whoever they want and choose whatever career, not just our group, but all the youth as well, “be the best you can be.”
Health illnesses including sexually transmitted diseases like HIV were in the past. Today it is more accepted that these sicknesses can affect anyone.
Te Tiare will steer towards tackling Non Communicable diseases, mental health, and addiction to alcohol and drugs. “Some people use addictions as a coping mechanism, we want to do our best to help.”
The Ministry of Health has provided Te Tiara with headquarters in Tupapa; the office coordinator is Czerena Van Dongen with the assistance of Mahonri Williams.
Everyone is welcome to visit the premises for a chat when the doors open in the mornings, Monday to Friday. “People can feel isolated and alone, having someone like-minded to talk to may help out.”
Established in 2008, the focus is on supporting sexual minority groups in the Cook Islands with their quest for health advocacy, personal development, community acceptance and equal rights for their members; at present Te Tiare has 62 registered members.
Lady Tuaine Marsters wife of the Sir Tom Marsters the Queens Representative has been the patron since 2008.
Wichman (previously secretary) takes over from Shaniqua Ngaoire as President and is joined by a mix of old and new 2019-20 executive members: Executive Vice President Czerena Van Dongen, Secretary Rabsaris Aitoa, assistant Secretary Metua Vaiimene, Treasurer Teautoa Peua and assistant Treasurer Tupe Tamatoa; cultural representatives are Janette Olliver and Kenzo Rima, who will advocate for Te Tiare in the Pa Enua and overseas.
“Thank you to the previous executive and acting President Regina for all they have contributed to the Te Tiare journey over the last few years,” Wichman said. “Going forward we will need to work closely with our members and stakeholders, but also work smart towards building a strong and empowered community.”