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Young Cook Islands leader encourages youth: “Never be afraid, take up challenges”

Monday 17 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Art, Features

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Young Cook Islands leader encourages youth: “Never be afraid, take up challenges”
Nicolea Mateariki at the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) representing Cook Islands at the Young Pacific Leaders forum in Honolulu, Hawaii, last week. 24061502 / 24061501

Nineteen-year-old Nicolea Mateariki, who returned from representing Cook Islands at the Young Pacific Leaders Forum during 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC), has a message for young people: “Never be afraid, and always take up challenges.”

Mateariki, who joined Christian Tereora at the Young Pacific Leaders sessions as youth ambassadors for the Cook Islands in Honolulu, Hawaii, says she was honoured to represent her country at the historic event.

The Cook Islands Television (CITV) sports journalist started working for the local television company at the age of 14, growing her passion for social media alongside her love for photography and videography

After completing her studies at Tereora College, she challenged herself to the full-time role of a sports journalist at CITV.


Nicolea Mateariki and Christian Tereora at the Young Pacific Leaders sessions as youth ambassadors for the Cook Islands in Honolulu, Hawaii, last week. SUPPLIED / 24061504

Mateariki comes from a family that is not only heavily embedded in Cook Islands culture, but also in sports.

“I come from a family of talented dancers, singers, athletes, planters, fishermen and so on,” she says.

“My siblings and I have made a huge impact on football in the Cook Islands, where it all began playing for the best village Nikao. We have all represented our nation through sports and culture over the past few years, and I too see the hard work and commitment that my family contributes to our community especially when it comes to these two things, sports and culture.

“I have represented the Cook Islands in badminton and volleyball, bringing home a bronze medal last year from the Country of Origin volleyball competition.”


Nicolea Mateariki with the Minister George “Maggie” Angene in Honolulu, Hawaii. SUPPLIED / 24061503

She says her father Casper Mateariki has represented the country in many sports, and currently holds the Cook Islands record for the 400 metres hurdles race while her brothers all play touch rugby, football, handball, athletics and rugby union.

“Taking up this role as the Cook Islands female youth ambassador at this year’s Festival of Arts has been the best decision that I’ve ever made for myself this year.

“Personally, I feel that through my confidence and the work ethics that I do around our community, including my involvement in our culture, has brought the attention of other leaders to respectfully select me to be a representative of our youth back at home.”

Mateariki says her role at the event was “to be a voice for our youth, and not only just the youth of the Cook Islands but of the Pacific”.

“If there are concerns or solutions that we as young and talented youngsters can think of to help make our environment a better place for our present and future then that’s where I think my usefulness comes in place.

“For those who are too shy to speak up for the pre-eminent of their countries. There are so many messages that I would like to send out to our youth of the Cook Islands, but my main message is this – never be afraid, always take up challenges and opportunities. Opportunities only come around once, take the risk and have hope, be the change you wish to see in the world.

“We are the ‘change’ that we wish to see in the future.

“In Matthew 20:25-28, Jesus tells His disciples that leaders should not exercise authority over people. Instead, whoever wants to become great must lower himself to be a servant.

“Leaders realise that serving others is the only way to lead with a pure heart, free of pride and arrogance.”