Wayfinding Pasifika Success

“We wanted to convey the transcendent and multifaceted nature of success through a Pasifika lens. Ethereal environments with emphasis on the form of the land, sea, and sky. Stars are given emphasis as celestial guides to our people, allowing us to navigate the ocean at night.
The reflection of the celestial bodies in the sea below is indicative of the holistic nature of Pasifika understanding, where people, ancestors, gods and nature are to be viewed as one, immersed in the Vā – the relational space between all things.
The vaka has a more supportive role in this image as a means of spatial movement whereas the eyes focus is lead across the natural landscape, seascape and mountainscape. In Pasifika understanding the protection of the land in turn protects us as people. The land feeds, clothes and shelters us and we are her stewards.
The natural bodies emphasised in this picture are also subjects of legend, where they are deified in creation stories across the pacific. These myths and legends are key to our sacred history and rich genealogy”.

Feel My Reach

Daughter, hold my hand, be still, listen to me.
These hands of mine, have much to say.
They will tell you of worlds before
and of your ancestors’ past…
each wrinkle, each line,
a collective spirit etched in body and mind.
Oh, the stories that these hands can tell…
These hands are not mine alone,
I have shared my hands in sustaining life,
many years of sewing, healing, gifting, giving
and in pushing strong fists forward…
fighting for rights to be heard.
So, for you in this place, in Aotearoa belong,
to have your voice known.
Oh, the stories that these hands can tell…
Take my hand granddaughter,
Let me lead you along,
These hands of yours are young and your
stories, yet to come.
Your hands are mine, and mine are yours,
Use your hands wisely in the choices you
Push strong fists forward,
So, generations to come will feel your reach
and know of your wisdom, of worlds before
and of your ancestors’ past.
Oh, the stories that these hands will tell…

Jacoba Matapo (2018)

Research Project Description

The aim of the pilot research was to encourage all Faculty of Education and Social Work staff and students to connect to the vision of Pasifika success by strengthening collaboration of all lecturers and teaching staff with Pasifika support staff. The research aims to strengthen cultural awareness and engagement in cultural practices that are conducive to Pasifika success. 

From this pilot study (2018), a university-wide study was conducted (2019-2020) to obtain greater insight into Pasifika students and their definitions of success, as they navigate through their tertiary educational journeys. This website emerges as a new resultant cartography of celebration, affirmation, and inspiration for the next generation of Pasifika students in academia.

The website is a resource shared within the faculty as a tool of Wayfinding Pasifika Success and will include specific content to foster Pasifika success.

This sharing of Pasifika content will include Pacific indigenous knowledge, Pasifika research methods and Pasifika teaching and learning frameworks. The overarching research question is:

How can Pasifika as a collective within the University strengthen connections, work collaboratively and engage in the spirit of the collective?

The Pasifika experience is multifaceted, complex, and must be understood through empathy. Immersing ourselves within the experience of each other, our family members, and our ancestors before us emphasises the immense love, resilience, and innate greatness that all Pasifika people possess.

This website is an ode to our people. It seeks to empower Pasifika students and present success as more than just grades on a report card.

“Let our ancestors right into our world, come and dance with them in our world. We learn from them, through the continuity between us and them and also more importantly our distinct identity within the world system. With the depth of our history, we will bring our ancestors to us, carry our spirits, bring them forward to our world, willingly […]” (Hau’ofa, cited in Elis & Hau’ofa, 2001, p 24.).

Why Pasifika Success in Education?

Success is not an isolated construct for Pasifika. Success for Pasifika students in the academy is multifaceted and more importantly linked to familial and community influences, values, beliefs, indebtedness/appreciation of ancestral sacrifices, and aspirations of family and the collective (Mayeda, Keil, Dutton & Ofamo’oni, 2014). It cannot be attributed to institutional support services or systems solely.

Pasifika academics have had their many challenges in the academy from equity in academic promotion (Barrow & Grant 2018) to equitable opportunities for Pasifika students. Matapo, Associate Dean Pasifika at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland, and Senior Lecturer aptly states: “as Pasifika, we need to ask, what is the purpose of education?” She continues, “Let us look at our histories, our past to reshape our future, the new direction we should go” (direct conversation, 2020).

Many Pasifika and Māori academics within universities have come to the fore and established numerous “transformative intellectual and research developments, but they remain too few in number and in many cases are isolated” (ibid. p. 4). These indigenous academics understand the plight of their Pasifika and Māori students and as Airini, et al., (2011) illustrated, Pasifika and Māori cultural knowledge can be employed not just to endure challenges but to utilise strong cultural knowledge to progress further and thrive in the realm of academia.