Table of Contents

Tafa Esther Cowley-Malcolm, New Zealand (English)


Taken at Esther's graduation in December 2013.

Letter of friendship

To my spiritual family 

Dear Friends,

My name is Tafa Esther Cowley-Malcolm. I am Samoan born and New Zealand bred. I came to New Zealand when I was 2years old with my mother and my four older brothers. My father came before us to find work and accommodation then sent for us to come and join him in 1955. Tafa is my matai title or my family’s chieftain title which they bestowed on me several years ago. But happy for you to call me Esther.

"SOME of my close and extended family at our annual family gathering Christmas 2013 at Lake Okataina, Rotorua, New Zealand."

I had 10 siblings but two died very suddenly both in their early 50’s. Three siblings all older live overseas – one in Samoa, the other two in Australia. The rest of my siblings live in New Zealand; Auckland and Tokoroa.

I live in Ohope Beach with my husband John. Our two children live in Brisbane, Australia and Toronto, Canada.

Our son Ezra is married and our daughter Alicia marries in August. She and her fiancé have a 5 year old son – Kingston.

My husband John is a paediatrician and I am a researcher. I worked at AUT University in

Auckland for twenty years and John works as a senior consultant and Head of Paediatrics Department at Whakatane Hospital.

"This is my husband John with our God child John named after him. Taken in 2014."

I work from home and much of my work has involved research with children and their families. I have published several papers in peer reviewed Journals on inter-partner conflict and Samoan parenting and discipline.

I am currently working with an animator on adapting a conflict resolution tool called ‘Play Nicely’ into an I.T app that Pacific parents can download free from the internet. Hopefully parents will find it user friendly for managing their children’s challenging behaviours.

I used the tool in my Doctoral studies with Samoan parents and I am very happy that I am adapting it to be more relevant for Pacific parents and their children.

I have been a Quaker for nearly thirty years. I first attended Quaker meetings in Australia and then when I returned to New Zealand I decided to be a ‘Quaker by convincement’. I love the Quaker testimonies and the work they do in peace, social justice and equality. I see the work I do in AVP as an extension of my faith and the purpose for me being here on earth. There is a Samoan saying that goes “the path to leadership is through service’. My father always told us that the reason we are here on earth is ‘to serve’. So I come from a very ‘service oriented’ family and ‘to serve’ is like eating and breathing for my family.

Basic workshop held with Pacific Island Community in Tokoroa, South Waikato, New Zealand. Facilitators: Esther Cowley-Malcolm, David Wicks and Lowanna Crawford.

I have been involved in AVP since Stephen Angell brought the programme out to New Zealand. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first Quakers to be trained in AVP and facilitated the first AVP workshop in the prison in New Zealand. I have never looked back. I took a break to immerse myself in my studies but returned to it, and it was just like I had never been away. I was in Kenya for the World Quaker conference and was so humbled to be invited to be a facilitator in a workshop in Turbo. It was simply wonderful to see AVP in action among young Kenyans. 

I love AVP work and seeing the changes it makes in peoples lives. I enjoy working with diverse groups of people and seeing how the process is the same everywhere. I love that you ‘can really trust the process’ and it works time and time again and I love that many of my friends have done it and others about to do it because they hear me talking about it and are curious to see why I am so passionate about it…including my husband. He did the basic recently and is going to do the advanced.

Gardening is my relaxing tonic. It allows me to feel mother earth between my fingers and nourishes me not just physically but spiritually. I have a lovely little vege garden on my verandah and it has been lovely to pick my own lettuces, radishes, spinach and peas. I would like to extend it to potatoes and pumpkins but that may have to wait till next year.

I miss my children a lot and grandson but we try and get to see them all at least once a year

"Me with my son Ezra and his wife Natalie, taken March 2013."

and my son who lives closer to NZ comes over from Australia at Christmas time with his wife. This year we will visit our daughter as she gets married in August in Toronto.

I am 61 years old. I trained as a nurse, then a teacher and then became a university lecturer and social science researcher. Most of my work these days are with NGO or Not for Profit organisations. I am also on the AVP Aotearoa executive committee.

I am also training for the Rotorua marathon in May and hope I can keep up my training while I am in Indonesia and Phillipines. Does anyone want to run with me?

I hope my wee letter finds you all in good health wherever you are in the world serving and doing God’s work. As we say in New Zealand….

Arohanui (much love)



March 2014