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Pasifika values

These principles characterise Pasifika people and communities and are demonstrated in their customs, practices, and ways of being. The values are interconnected and some have been combined for the purposes of showing how they may be seen by Pasifika students in their learning experiences.

Reciprocity and Relationships: as they are to all people, relationships are of the utmost importance to Pasifika students. However as Anne Fitisemanu (2015) points out, Pasifika people connect with others “through our hearts before we connect through our heads.” In a tertiary context, this might be seen in the way Pasifika students interact with each other, which often involves a lot of laughter and food. Through our Talanoa, students noted the importance of the first lecture and how introductions were made by the lecturer and fellow students, which would then set the tone for future lectures.

Although it does depend on the lecturer or tutor concerned, creating an environment where students feel comfortable enough to connect with staff and other students is important. For example lecturers being personable or approachable, sharing experiences of when they were students, making the effort to connect with students at
their level, would be of significant benefit to Pasifika students.

Service and Inclusion: Pasifika people love to help others and often work well in collective settings. Service therefore is a significant part of Pasifika students’ lives, whether at home, at church or in the community. Don’t be afraid to encourage Pasifika students to participate in lectures by requesting active participation. This participation could include simple tasks, group discussion leadership roles and the facilitation of student feedback. Small as those tasks may seem, it can help students to feel valued!

Respect: the concept of respect is held reverentially by Pasifika students, and is often a reflection of their home environment, where elders, parents and older siblings are held in high regard by virtue of age, gender, experience and position in the family or community. This often spills over into the educational arena and may account for the way in which students view and speak to lecturers, tutors and people in positions of authority.

Spirituality: for many Pasifika students, spirituality – particularly the Christian faith – is a vital part of their lives. How this is manifested in individual students’ lives varies but church activities may take up a lot of their time. In the lecture setting, some Pasifika students may feel uncomfortable if jokes are made about their faith or spirituality. It may be unintentional on the lecturer’s part however it is important to be mindful of this.

Leadership: a common belief held by Pasifika people is that in order to lead, one must follow. This, in line with the value of service, might go some way in explaining why Pasifika students may not exhibit qualities one would think leaders should possess. Pasifika students may view leadership differently based on how they see leadership within their home and community contexts. 

However, it is vital to embrace the diversity of what leadership may be or look like to Pasifika students. It is generally accepted within most Pasifika cultures to avoid selfpraise. This may be deemed as a lack of confidence. However, in the context of Pasifika this would be seen as humility; a socially accepted and expected leadership quality. Other students might be more outspoken, perhaps reflecting an increased confidence in their generation or perhaps not being the first in their immediate families to attend university. Whatever their motivation for study, it is important to encourage Pasifika students to achieve their aspirations through their studies, thereby influencing other Pasifika students to do the same.

Family: Pasifika societies are collective; an individual will always identify themselves within the context of their families and wider communities. This is demonstrated in the way that many Pasifika students will put the interests of their families before their own. For example school holidays that do not coincide with University holidays often present challenges for Pasifika students to navigate family obligations while balancing study commitments. Often Pacific students are the eldest of their siblings still living at home. This will mean that while parents are away the eldest is often left with the responsibility to look after younger siblings.

Love: a universal value, underpinning much of what people do. However in a Pasifika context, it is the showing of care and concern for others that drives students to
prioritise family events or issues or helping a friend out over completing an assignment or studying for an exam. Love for Pasifika is manifested in our actions particularly in the way we are expected to put others before ourselves. Although this is not ideal in terms of assignment deadlines and course or degree completion, it is the reality for many of our Pasifika students.

What is Talanoa?

Talanoa is a Polynesian word which broadly means ‘to talk or converse’. As a Pacific concept it highlights the importance of communication in an effort to better understand a person, a situation or an issue. The concept necessitates the need for an environment where people can feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts. A ‘Talanoa’ session was held with Pasifika students to garner their views on how we should engage more effectively with them.

Chanel Tamahaga (Tahiti, Niue; Cook Islands)

Master of Teaching and Learning (Secondary) with Distinction
2016 Pasifika Excellence Award recipient

“At times it was not always easy to ask or accept help but often it only took one person to listen, support, push or remind me of my desire to make a difference. Choosing an academic path was never about getting ahead, rather it was about fulfilling a deeper purpose. It was about making a positive difference in both my life and the lives of others. It was about trusting and finding myself. It relationships that mattered.”


Rev. Alesana Fosi Pala'amo (Samoa)

Studying towards a PhD in Social Work
Pasifika Doctoral Scholarship recipient (2015 & 2016)

“It has been a blessing to study at Massey University for the fantastic support and many opportunities that it provides for Pasifika researchers like myself. Migrating from Samoa with my wife and three sons for the duration of this project, Massey University has made the transition into the New Zealand way of life an enjoyable experience for us all.”


Sabrina Betham (Samoa)

Studying towards a Bachelor of Sport Management
2016 Pasifika Community Award recipient

“My (Pasifika and Massey University) community involvement has contributed to my educational journey in two ways: improving my communication skills in terms of public speaking as well as helping me work better within a team to become an efficient team player.”

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