Pacific Essence



Immigration Museum
400 Flinders Street
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
What's On

Tales of a Migrant Plantation

A fusion of culture, performance, dance, art and storytelling shared through the lives of LGBTIQA+ individuals from the Pacific diaspora.

Pacific Essence weaves the tapestry of Rainbow narratives through performance, dance and a talanoa panel discussion with a backdrop of photographs from this year's Stonewall 50th Anniversary World Pride New York March.

Join Melbourne-based Amao Leota Lu on a journey with her extended Rainbow family through the highs and lows, tears and laughter – embracing the notion "You’re welcome at our table."


Amao Leota Lu is a proud Samoan fa'afafine and trans woman of color. She is an international speaker, performing artist, writer, activist and storyteller who infuses the intersectionality of gender, culture and life experiences in her performance works and talks.

Fiaailetoa Ken Moala is a trailblazer for LGBTIQ health and human rights with 30 years of outstanding service to advance the rights of LGBTIQ people and beyond. Ken is a traditional pacific & Samoan elder (Matai), healer, fa'afafine, chaplain and human rights activist. Ken was presented the Heroes Award for Social Justice from APCOM 2018 & 2019.

Jaiyah Saelua is a member of the Samoan fa’afafine community, and best known as the world’s first out transgender person to compete in a FIFA-sanctioned tournament — the 2011 Oceania FIFA World Cup Brazil Qualifications. She is highlighted in an internationally renowned documentary about the American Samoa National Soccer Team, called “Next Goal Wins”, which will be remade into a Hollywood feature film by Director Taika Waititi. She has used her platform to advocate for the inclusion of transgender athletes in football. Her most notable work to date is helping the England Football Association create, solidify & publish a policy on transgender inclusion in football. She is a member of the FIFA “11 For Diversity” — a jury that is comprised of 11 renowned figures in international football who have contributed to making FIFA more diverse & who choose the annual winner of the FIFA Diversity Award. She was featured on the cover of the 2016 September issue of FIFA 1904 Magazine. She continues to travel with the hope of making the world more trans-friendly through her intersectional advocacy work.

Andrew Fitisemanu was born in New Zealand and is of Samoan heritage. He was raised in a Catholic family and still has a relationship with God. He is a retired Rugby Union player having played for a variety of clubs over many years. Andrew’s story was documented earlier this year on Australian television regarding being an out Pacific rugby player. He also supports initiatives to challenge people's perceptions of Pasifika LGBTIQA+.

Joseph Sikulu is the Pacific Regional Campaigner for global climate change advocacy group He is a Tongan man and a Pacific Climate Warrior working with Pacific people in 15 Island Nations and with the Pacific Diaspora in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. He works to ensure that in the face of Climate Change the story being told of the Pacific reflects the leadership and resilience displayed by its people including the LBTIQA+ community. These are people who are on the frontline of Climate Change but who are also leading the way at the forefront of Climate action.

Ripley Kavara is a musician and artist born in Papua New Guinea and now based in Naarm. They are interested in disrupting normative space through augmenting sound, vision and narrative. They also work in youth work focusing on digital arts as a tool for empowerment for black, brown & queer youth. They are currently working on a major project FAMILI, an EP featuring queer pasifika artists which will be launching on February 6th. 

Korra Koperu is a Māori transgender woman who started her advocacy journey at 13. Korra had to overcome legal barriers, bullying and sexual harassment at school to live her authentic truth. Today, Korra is also passionate about reconnecting with her Whānau from the Ngāti Moko Marae in Te Puke, New Zealand.


Tara Apa is a Multi-disciplinary artist- a fa’afafine entertainer, who brings class, comedy and fun to the stage. She is also an activist for Pasifika fa’afafine, Leiti, Akavaine, Mahu, Lae’lae, Sistergirl, Palopa and Fakafafine communities. Formerly the Secretariat for the Pacific Sexual Diversity Network (PSDGN), Tara is currently studying Criminology and Psychology. She is working towards setting up a culturally appropriate safe space for Pasifika LGBTIQA focusing on mental health issues. Tara has hosted numerous events from concerts for the well-known band ‘Fiji’ to pageants in Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and also in America. She has also reported on various shows such as the Samoan fa’afafine Show ‘Pacific International Runway.’

Presented as part of the Queer Unsettled program in partnership with Midsumma Festival, supported by the Australia Council.