Dr Litea Meo-Sewabu staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099

Dr Litea Meo-Sewabu

Research Officer

School of People, Environment and Planning

Litea joined the School in 2009 from the University's Student Learning and Development Centre as a Pacific Learning Consultant. She graduated with a Masters in Public Health from Tulane University's School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana and a Bachelor of Science from Lambuth University, Jackson, Tennessee both in the United States. She is currently a PhD candidate in which she is exploring the cultural constructs of health and wellbeing of Indigenous Fijian women in Fiji and New Zealand. She has also worked with the Pacific Development group within the School and Pasifika@Massey to create the Certificate in Pacific Development. She currently teaches the Pacific content of the Bachelors of Social Work curriculum (years 1-4) and Masters of Applied Social Work.

Litea also works closely with the wider Manawatu Pacific community and is part of the Pacific Health Advisory Group(MCDHB). In 2007 she was commissioned by Mid Central Health Board along with Dr. Tracie Mafileo to produce the Niu Pacific Health Plan for the Manawatu region.

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Research Expertise

Research Interests

Women and Indigenous constructs of Health & Wellbeing

Praxis of Ethics process within indigenous populations

Community Development in Pacific communities

Notions of empowerment within Indigenous groups

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Team Member 1 0

Current Projects

Project Title: The land has eyes and teeth: customary landowners' entanglements with economic systems in the Pacific

External commentators regularly assert that customary practices around land are a ‘constraint’ to economic development in the Pacific. This project turns this proposition on its head, exploring how Pacific communities have been able to establish distinctive models of engagement that allow them to pursue economic development while retaining control over customary land and upholding community processes and values. While land is conventionally understood as a commodity, we draw upon the notion of land as ‘assemblage’ (Li 2014) which counters this narrow economistic perspective. Pacific people view land in a holistic manner which embraces cultural, social and spiritual elements. Implicitly “the land has eyes and teeth” points to people’s deep understanding of the power of the land and its ‘mana’, which demands respect. This fundamentally influences how customary land development is negotiated. Our project seeks to explore the diverse relationships that adhere around such business engagements to illuminate what makes for success for businesses on customary land. A scoping survey will help to identify four case studies of successful cooperatives and family businesses which will be researched, utilising a Vanua Research Framework and Critical Appreciative Inquiry. We anticipate that our research will construct a new way of theorising Pacific economies. Start / End years: 2017-2020 Funder(s): Royal Society of NZ, Marsden Fund Team Members: Regina Scheyvens, Glenn Banks, Litea Meo-Sewabu, Vijay Naidu (USP), Suliasi Vunibola (PhD student) and Hennah Steven (PhD student)
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Date Range: 2017 - 2020

Funding Body: Royal Society of New Zealand

Project Team:

Research Outputs


Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2016). 'Na Marama iTaukei Kei Na Vanua': Culturally embedded agency of indigenous fijian women - opportunities and constraints. New Zealand Sociology. 31(2), 96-122 Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=280070635207601;res=IELHSS%3E%20ISSN:%200112-921X
[Journal article]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2014). Cultural discernment as an ethics framework: An indigenous Fijian approach. Asia Pacific Viewpoint. 55(3), 345-354
[Journal article]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, LD., & Koro, T. (2013). Pacific Identities and well-being. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review. 25(4), 92-93
[Book Review]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, LD., & Walsh-Tapiata, W. (2012). Global declarations and village discourses: Social policy and indigenous wellbeing.. Alter Native Journal. 8(3), 305-317 Retrieved from http://www.alternative.ac.nz/
[Journal article]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.


Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2014). Ethics & Ethnography as an indigenous researcher: A Fijian perspective. In P. Fairbairn-Dunlop, & E. Coxon (Eds.) Talanoa: Building a Pasifika Research Culture. (pp. 142 - 158). Auckland, NZ: Dunmore Publishing Ltd
[Chapter]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2014). Research ethics: An indigenous Fijian perspective. In C. Cocker, & T. Hafford-Letchfield (Eds.) Rethinking Anti-Discriminatory & Anti-Oppressive Theories for Social Work Practice. (pp. 108 - 122). UK: Palgrave Macmillan
[Chapter]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Stewart-Withers, R., Banks, GA., McGregor, A., & Meo-Sewabu, L. (2014). Qualitative Research. In R. Scheyvens (Ed.) Development Fieldwork. (pp. 59 - 80). : SAGE Publications Limited
[Chapter]Authored by: Banks, G., Meo-Sewabu, L., Stewart-Withers, R.Edited by: Scheyvens, R.


Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2016). 'Tu ga na inima ka luvu na waqa' : (The bail to get water out of the boat is in the boat yet the boat sinks) : the cultural constructs of health and wellbeing amongst Marama iTaukei in a Fijian village in Lau and in a transnational Fijian community in Whanganui, Aotearoa : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Social Policy at Massey University, Palmerston North, Aotearoa - See more at: http://mro.massey.ac.nz/browse?type=author&value=Meo-Sewabu%2C+Litea+Diloki#sthash.hXCvaXH6.dpuf. (Doctoral Thesis)
[Doctoral Thesis]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.Edited by: Phibbs, S.


Meo-Sewabu, LD.(2015). Science in PSIDS: UNESCO/UNITWIN project.
[Technical Report]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, L.(2015). Summer Institute on Emergency Management and Indigenous Approaches to risk reduction workshop, Massey University..
[Technical Report]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.
Meo-Sewabu, LD.(2013). Report on review of the Certificate for Pacific Development.
[Technical Report]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.Contributed to by: Meo-Sewabu, L.


Meo-Sewabu, LD. (2012). 230.102 Pacific Peoples in New Zealand.
[Other]Authored by: Meo-Sewabu, L.

Consultancy and Languages


  • Fijian
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

Coordinator of Certificate in Pacific Development

230.102 Pacific Peoples in New Zealand

179.230 Wellbeing of Pacific Peoples in New Zealand

179.784 Social & Community Work Practice II

Pacific content within the BSW & MASW programme

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Co-supervisor 3 0

Current Doctoral Supervision

Co-supervisor of:

  • Hennah Steven - Doctor of Philosophy
    Customary land and economic development: case studies from Papua New Guinea
  • Soni Leweniqila - Doctor of Philosophy
    Sustainability, Adaptability and Yield Stability of Sweet Potatoes in different climatic zones of Fiji
  • Suliasi Vunibola - Doctor of Philosophy
    Customary land and economic development: case studies from Fiji

Media and Links


  • 15 Oct 2012 - Magazine
    Hard work for Pasifika learner success rewarded
    Work of Pasifika Educators group that organises the Pasifika Fusion gets recognition from the Ministry of Education work started in 2006.
  • 11 Oct 2013 - Newspaper
    Fun way to keep language alive
    Contributing to Pacific development within the community
  • 07 Oct 2014 - Newspaper
    Fijian talk of the town this week
    Contributing to Pasifika development in the community
  • 01 Jul 2011 - Magazine
    Our beliefs
    Interview with writer Allana Kaipo on Pacific Islands cultural beliefs on birthing

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