Pasifika Models I

A relatively simple way to understand how Pasifika peoples see the world is through cultural identity models that were created to illustrate what is important for Pasifika peoples’ wellbeing. These give a great insight into what is critically important for them.

The Fonofale (Samoan) and Te Whare Tapa Wha (Maori) models both use the metaphor of a traditional thatch-roofed house to illustrate the main tenets of their identity.

In the mid-1980s, Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann created the Fonofale Model to help mental health agencies in providing services to Pasifika peoples in New Zealand. The metaphorical use of the traditional house or fale provides service providers with a holistic and dynamic illustration of what is important to Pasifika people. 

Figure 1. Fonofale model

As illustrated above, the model shows the following aspects relating to Samoan identity:

  1. Family is the foundation for all Pasifika cultures. Family provides grounding and safety. The family can include the nuclear family as well as extended family that can be bound together by marriage, kinship, chieftain titles, or covenant. 

Family: Aiga (Samoan), Kainga (Tongan), Whanau (Maori), Magafaoa (Niuean), Kopu Tangata (Cook Islands) 

  • Culture, cultural values, beliefs and traditions provide the shelter and safety for families.  Although living in Australia, many Pasifika families hold on to many traditional ways of living, and these may be most evident in how life events such as weddings and funerals are carried out. Often families in Australia live in a spectrum that stretches from a traditional Pacific cultural way of life, to a Western cultural orientation.
  • Pou/Poles:  These pillars are the physical, spiritual, mental and other (sometimes classed as social, and may include gender, age, socio-economic status etc) dimensions. These dimensions keep Pasifika peoples upright and steadfast, and all of these dimensions should be considered when working with Pasifika peoples.
  • Environment, time and context circle the various dimensions and have direct or indirect influence on each other. They encapsulate the model to highlight the dynamic and continuous nature of the model. 

The obvious relevant factor for this course is that we are looking at Pasifika peoples who are living in Australia and so the focus for this course is how Pasifika peoples in Australia can maintain the essence of their identities, and still thrive within the context of the Australian way of life.

Similarly, the Maori model Te Whare Tapa Wha (Figure 2) illustrates that the four cornerstones of Maori health are taha tinana (physical health), taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whanau (family health) and taha hinengaro (mental health). It illustrates that if one cornerstone is damaged or missing, the person, or the collective will become ‘unbalanced’ and subsequently unwell.

Figure 2. Te Whare Tapa Wha model

Before you move on, check out the attached article (see Materials) around Pacific peoples’ views on mental health which incorporates the Fonofale model, and watch this video from Ako Aotearoa that explains the Fonofale Model and how it may apply in practice. Although created in New Zealand, the model is still applicable here in Australia.

Ako Aotearoa – Fonofale Model

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