In a reunion that bridged generations, Royal Australia Navy Officer Chaplain Simote Finau recently returned to his childhood school in Tonga to share his story and offer guidance to students.
CAPTION: RAN Chaplain Simote Finau addresses students of the Kolisi Tonga College, during Operation Solania. Story by Flight Lieutenant Glen Paul. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Chris Tsakisiris.
Visiting the Pacific Island nations of Samoa and Tonga in support of Operation Solania, Chaplain Finau embarked on a personal mission to reconnect with his roots.
Chaplain Finau shared his unique experiences as an ADF Chaplain with the students at Tonga College, in the village of Ha’ateiho, Tongatapu.
As the proud son of a long line of Tongans, Chaplain Finau holds a deep appreciation for the rich cultural and religious heritage that has shaped his identity.
Addressing an assembly of eager students, Chaplain Finau shared his personal story of transformation, highlighting the values instilled in him during his time at Tonga College.
“I learned the importance of empathy, compassion and integrity right here within these walls,” Chaplain Finau said.
“These are the values that guide me in my service to others, especially in my role as a Royal Australian Navy chaplain.”
During his visit, Chaplain Finau spent time not only talking to the students, but engaged their love of sport with the help of his ADF colleagues, by presenting the school with rugby and volley balls.
Principal Sekona Tu’ipulotu expressed gratitude for the profound impact Chaplain Finau had on the school community.
“Having Simote return to his original school in Tonga has been a truly wonderful experience for our students,” Principal Tu’ipulotu said.
“His stories of resilience, selflessness and service have made them aware of the potential they hold within themselves, and that pathways are not set in stone.”
Chaplain Finau’s felt the embrace of his community and the affirmation of his journey.
“Returning to Tonga College has been a powerful reminder of where I came from and the values that have shaped me,” Chaplain Finau said.
“It was a privilege to share my story with the next generation, and I hope it’s inspired them to find their own paths of purpose and service.”
Operation Solania Contingent Commander Major Lindon Goodson said community outreach through visits to schools, churches and sporting events is an important part of any ADF activity.
“These engagements serve as powerful catalysts of friendship, understanding, and mutual respect, bridging the gaps between cultures and fostering trust and a shared vision of a brighter future for the South Pacific and beyond.”
CAPTION: RAN Chaplain Simote Finau visits the Kolisi Tonga College. Photo by Leading Aircraftman Chris Tsakisiris.