The first five modules of this course explained who Pasifika peoples are, how they see the world, why they ended up in Australia and how they are faring. All this served to shape your engagement by knowing who you are dealing with – (remember the quote “in order to teach you, I must know you”?).

Throughout this module are principles, Pasifika concepts, and practical tools to assist you in your engagement with Pasifika peoples. 

We are confident that by combining the knowledge of who Pasifika peoples are with the practical tools from this module, you will be able to work even more effectively with Pasifika peoples.

As hard as it is to distill all of the information into key points, here’s 9 key principles we believe will assist you in your engagement with Pasifika peoples … and we’re sure you will be able to contribute more with what resonated most for you!

  • Meaningful, respectful and reciprocal dialogue and design

From scoping successful Pasifika projects, both abroad (mostly from New Zealand and the United States) as well as local ones, the common ground across all is that the design of the projects have been through a genuine partnership – meaningful, respectful and reciprocal dialogue and design – these partnerships are continued in this way from conception to implementation and beyond.

  • Pasifika-centric

Successful engagement does not consist of Western-content coated with Pasifika images – it is Pasifika-centric so that it resonates and relates to the target population. The temptation to implement Western-centred content packaged in a Pasifika exterior is understandable, but resisting it requires courageous and confident leadership to allow for Pasifika ways of being, thinking, knowing and becoming to be the centre of the project – partnered with Western knowledge and tools.

  • Strengths-based

Effective engagement is strengths-based. Even though the reason for engagement is often due to a challenge or problem, engagement should always make Pasifika peoples feel valued and validated in the relationship, and as if they are bringing “capital” to the table and conversation.

  • Family and community integration

Families and communities are engaged and included in the journey. As relational beings, an education strategy focused on just the student, or a health intervention focused on just the patient, will be limited in its success – Pasifika peoples have an obligation to ‘teu le va’ and so their decisions are rarely based with only themselves in mind. 

  • Holistic identity

Strategies must be holistic – the “Fonofale” and “Te Whare Tapa Wha” models illustrated the dimensions of being for Pacific peoples. Family, culture, social, physical, mental and spiritual elements must all be considered and incorporated. People are complex and require multi-disciplinary strategies to solve challenges – this can be said to be heightened for Pasifika peoples because of the underlying differences between Western and Pasifika worldviews.

  • Culturally-responsive and agentic

Strategies must be driven by high expectations – and foster the agency of the community. They must seek to nurture self-determination and challenge deficit-thinking and narratives – these will only serve to mentally diminish Pasifika peoples, which can lead to learned helplessness, a victim-mindset, and worse outcomes.

  • Trusting relationships v needs-based relationships

Workers are encouraged to foster trusting relationships, rather than needs-based relationships. These often require conversations beyond the pointy reason for engagement, and a curiosity about the Pasifika person’s wider life. “Professional boundaries” can sometimes stymie the fostering of trust so wisdom and discernment must be exercised, but not sharing anything with a Pasifika person, while expecting them to disclose personal information will not be conducive for a successful relationship.

  • Pronunciation and asking questions

Names are important. They are meaningful in that they locate a Pasifika person within a family, village and nation. They also provide other Pasifika people with a means to find commonalities, connection and va. Attempting to pronounce names correctly will be respected by Pasifika peoples. If you are unsure, don’t be afraid to ask – your respect and care will drown out any mispronunciation.

  • Be self-aware

As highlighted earlier on, the starting point of cultural competence within any culture, starts with ones’ own self-awareness. Understanding who you are, how you see the world, why you see the world as you do, what is important to your own culture, and which values underpin your cultural nuances will provide the requisite empathy and curiosity to understand those same concepts in other cultures. Practice self-awareness and reflection. Knowing yourself begets knowing others. 

  • Relationship is key

Quite simply, when engaging with Pasifika peoples, relationship is key – teu le va.

To close off this module, watch Andrew’s TEDx talk “Disrupting education with traditional knowledges” – a speech that about how the real world is a diverse world, and how universities and graduates must know who they are working with to build trust and relationship with community if they are to impart the knowledge learned from their studies to improve our worlds –  “connection to community is critical to our collective wellbeing”.

He also speaks of the opportunities gained by valuing and validating other knowledge systems to create new, innovative solutions and strategies in these times of exponential change and unprecedented disruption.

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