Culturally Responsive Models for Engagement (Australia)

This section provides an example of an Australian-based culturally responsive framework.

The ‘QUT Niu Framework for Pasifika Student Success’ was designed to enhance Pasifika student success – targeting the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

After a comprehensive literature review and consulting with students and their families, community, school liaisons, teachers, graduates, academics and professionals. It is framed by the Samoan proverb “ia fua tele le niu” which means may the coconut tree bear much fruit. This is often wished on newlyweds, meaning may your new union bear many children (again highlighting the power and value of family). 

The framework adopts┬áthe coconut tree as a metaphor, as it is considered the tree of life in Pacific cultures because every part of it is used to sustain life. Below the image we will briefly describe each element – please keep your context in mind and think of ways in which these are (or can be) incorporated into your work.

Seed – This represents the need to understand Pasifika students’ ways of being, thinking and knowing, and their knowledge-construction processes. Cultural awareness training and courses such as these are helpful here.

Soil/Roots – As we have stated, family and community integration into a Pasifika students’ learning journey is critical to their success.

Trunk – Represents the institutions engaging with Pasifika peoples (in this case the university, but also the schools). The strength of the trunk is directly related to the lens through which Pasifika families are seen, engaged with, and involved. If it is strengths-based, and values and validates who Pasifika peoples are, the trunk will also be strong.

Moreover, the strength, height and girth of the trunk is also correlated to whether those institutions policies, procedures and practices are culturally-responsive.

Fronds/Branches – These represent the strategies and programs the university implement – if they sprout from a culturally-responsive institutional framework, they are more likely to be highly engaging and effective for Pasifika students.

Sun – The rays of the sun represent the dimensions of identity adopted from the various cultural models covered earlier in the course (e.g. Te Whare Tapa Wha, Fonofale, Tivaevae).

Niu/Coconut – The niu or coconut represents the graduates. As inherent explorers and way finders, they will drop from the tree, roll and re-grow. As shown in Module 2, this is the motivation for most Pasifika peoples’ migration to Australia – to thrive and flourish upon this new land. 

The framework has provided a guide by which the various components tailor their engagement strategies, as well as their coordinated and collaborative efforts. Since implementation, the Pasifika student body has risen to nearly 150 students (since inception in 2014), six high schools have partnered in the program, 20 Pasifika mentors are delivering mentoring programs in those schools, Pasifika academics have published articles, presented at conferences and worked towards filling the gap in Australian-based research, and surveys and interviews have recorded increases in students’ feeling of belonging, and they feel the university values and validates their identity.

In the downloads of this section is a fleshed out version of the above framework, as well as an article titled “Hey, we are the best ones at dealing with our own: embedding a culturally competent program for Maori and Pacific Island Children into a mainstream health service in Queensland” that reviews a culturally-tailored government initiative.

The frameworks outlined in the previous two sections highlight the need for effective strategies targeting Pasifika peoples to be holistic, broad-ranging and inclusive of many of the elements we’ve covered – Pasifika ways of being, thinking, knowing; integration of family and community; meaningful, respectful and reciprocal talanoa and consultation; inclusion of Pasifika identity dimensions and so on.

They also highlight the need for culturally-responsive frameworks within which culturally-responsive practitioners can work within. This will make their work safe for both themselves and their target community. With safety comes trust, and with trust there are meaningful partnerships.

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