When Ausage Fomai returned home from playing rugby in France he was struggling with a number of issues, but now not only is he graduating from EIT | Te Pūkenga, he is also Valedictorian at one of the Hawke’s Bay ceremonies on Friday (18 August).
Ausage, 34, will graduate with a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science from EIT | Te Pūkenga at the graduation ceremony at Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre, in Hastings on Friday afternoon.
He was born in Auckland, but grew up in Hawke’s Bay, attending Hastings Boys’ High. A promising rugby player, Ausage went overseas to first play American Gridiron in Australia and then over to France, where he played for US Meyzieu Rugby Club near Lyon.
“When I came back from France, I actually had nothing to my name, no legacy. I was struggling with quite a few things.”
“My first thought was that my older brother Tivaini had gone through EIT and I saw that he was a teacher, and then I just thought that I’ll try, ‘maybe I could be a teacher one day’.”
“My first pursuit was to become a teacher like him and then, along that journey I found myself leaning towards more of the community side of things.”
“I had pretty much nothing and I just wanted to change the direction for my family and my three children.”
It has worked out well for Ausage as he has found his calling in life – working to uplift the Pasifika community.
“Last year in my final year of study, my full-year project was to use exercise to strengthen a relationship between parent and child for the Pasifika people. So, I did that study, and now I’m doing that full-time this year with a business we started up while I was studying called WOWbeing. Now I’m a director in the business.”
The WOW in WOWbeing stands for Wellbeing of Whānau.
“I set the company up with my older brother Tivaini, who did the degree in sport and rec, and then went on to do a teaching post grad. We also linked up with another set of brothers, Davis and Tyson Ataera. We used my project from my degree as our first programme of four in what we call the Journey to Prosperity.”
“I was proactive when I was studying so even though it was busy, I still just made the right connections with people. And our heart is for our Pasifika people.”
For now, Ausage is focused on graduating and his Valedictorian speech. He describes being selected as Valedictorian as surprise and an honour.
He plans to use his Valedictorian speech to encourage his fellow graduands to pursue their dreams.
“I stepped out of my comfort zone to create something that wasn’t there, so I will tell them to ‘Just dream big and nothing’s impossible’.”
Ausage says his family is looking forward to supporting him at the graduation, but unfortunately his brother Neria will not be able to attend as he is flying out to France on the same day to represent Manu Samoa at the Rugby World Cup.
Neria started the studying journey with Ausage and ended up completing his NZ Certificate in Exercise.
“Unfortunately he won’t be here. He plays for the Magpies in Hawke’s Bay, but he has been selected to go to the World Cup with the Manu Samoa team. So, that’s him now,” says Ausage.
Dr Helen Ryan-Stewart, Head of School Health and Sport Science at EIT | Te Pūkenga, says: “We are so proud of all our 2023 graduates. They have successfully studied and balanced life commitments faced with the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have shown incredible resilience, determination, and adaptability in the face of unprecedented circumstances.”
“We are moved by the passion and work of Ausage and his team in Pacific communities. They have and are working to continue to make a difference in the lives of their people by tackling some of the biggest challenges around health disparities. The skills that Ausage has developed during his studies are now allowing him to create positive change. Ausage was an obvious choice as Valedictorian to represent his peers; his journey is inspiring and we are honoured to see him graduate from EIT | Te Pūkenga.”