My journey

By Mary-Anne Hawson


A little about me...

Mary-Anne Hawson, born and raised in the coastal town of Newcastle.
I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a partner, a friend and more.
I am Australian, with heritage roots that sit within Tongan Australian culture.
I represent line three of Prince Nalesoni Laifone, (third Crown Prince of Tonga) my Great Great Grandfather, the Kamoto side.
Mental Health has been a battle in all stages of my life in different ways.

As a child, when I witnessed harm, I was on an unconscious mission to stop what I knew was not right. My plan was to distract those staring, by being naughty.

As a teenager, I was always deemed the white card in the brown clan, not really fitting in anywhere, but always understanding my rights as a person.
Mental Health became more apparent within my Tongan family, with trauma-based mental illnesses and a close family member formally diagnosed with a personality disorder.

Come university and times changed to an open world of acceptance, exploration and belonging.

This is my reflection on talking Mental Health with Pacific youth as part of Lets Talanoa, an online forum hosted by the Uniting Church Assembly for young people to talk and share about life and faith.

Listening to other Pacific youth highlighted for me changes in the concepts of communication and respect.

As a proud Tongan Australian woman, I can help advocate for change in concepts of communication across the four pillars or core values within Tongan culture;

- Faka'apa'apa = acknowledging and returning respect
- Anga fakatokilalo/loto tõ = humility and is open to learning
- Tauhi vaha'a/vã = keeping the relationship ongoing, alive and well
- Mamahi'i me'a = one's loyalty and passion

If I can instigate open discussion and respect, then there's hope for change and better mental health and well-being across all generations.

The hymn that resonates with this topic of Mental Health, youth and our communities is acceptance, forgiveness and openness to just be you in this space of learning and growing. So "Come As You Are".