Why I chose to be "unprofessional"​ and invite kids to my Pasifika workshop?

Jul 05, 2019

Last workshop, 15 community services practitioners and health professionals took part in our 'Working with Pasifika Peoples' workshop - funded by Brisbane South PHN.

We had such rich and insightful talanoa (conversation) with participants from the fields of suicide prevention, domestic violence, youth homelessness, midwifery, youth detention, dementia, addictions, counselling and youth mental health. The participants are doing remarkable work in very tough spaces - kudos!



At every workshop, we ensure that a member of our Indigenous community performs the Welcome to Country, or Acknowledgement of Country. According to our own indigeneity (being indigenous to other lands), this is a critically important and culturally-proper way to start each workshop.

Last Friday, Jermaine Alberts attended to perform this ceremony. Jermaine runs an Indigenous cultural awareness organisation (Your Mob), and this time he brought along his four-year old son Johnny-boy to play the didgeridoo and perform the ceremony. It was a moving start to our day. Check out his performance here...

Johnny-boy's performance

Later on in the day, our middle daughter Felani joined us for some talanoa (conversation)

Kids at a PD workshop? Hmmmm...

Some would say it's unprofessional to take kids to a workshop: they can be noisy, distracting and disruptive - in other words, they run the risk of being.. kids.

However for us, involving our children in the workshops is a privilege and responsibility. 

Research in Pasifika student success shows that family and community integration in the student's learning journey is a key factor for success - a major reason for this being that Pasifika peoples are relational beings - we exist in relation to others.

This concept is highlighted in this quote by Samoa's former Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Taisi Efi:

I am not an individual, I am an integral part of the cosmos. I share divinity with my ancestors, the land, the seas and the skies. I am not an individual, because I share a Tofi (inheritance) with my family, my village, and my nation. I belong to my family and my family belongs to me. I belong to a village and my village belongs to me. I belong to my nation and my nation belongs to me. This is the essence of my sense of belonging. 


Community engagement is underpinned by relationships. In our work, we often engage on a "needs" basis. However, in our personal lives, we know that a "needs-based" relationship is unlikely to succeed - what is truly needed is trust.

Trust requires meaningful, reciprocal and respectful engagement. As practitioners we require our clients to share deeply sensitive information. For this to be reciprocated, we too must share about our lives and our families also - to an extent. Sometimes this is seen as breaching "professional boundaries", but these boundaries seem to limit our professional effectiveness rather than our professionalism.

For Jermaine, myself, and our wives, sharing our children and having them share with the group is an important family and cultural principle - and it aligns with the quote above.

Although our work systems and structures may not be conducive for family- and community-integration into our services, without their participation the individualistic approach is simply not aligned to Pasifika ways of being, thinking and knowing.

When designing programs and engagement approaches for Pasifika peoples, being inclusive of families and other critical networks will raise your likelihood of a trust-based and successful relationship.

Here's to you, your family, and our community's success!

- Vinaka vaka levu to Mary Bartlett-Johnstone, Tamihana Johnstone & Valami Qoro for the panel discussion.


Andrew & Nicola Fa'avale