Inaugural Pacific symposium reveals push for change

14 November 2013

Kiwa final Distinguished visitor: Keynote speaker Dr Malama Meleisea and Professor Linda Smith, Pro Vice-Chancellor Maori and Dean of the School of Māori and Pacific Development, at the inaugural Kiwa’s Colloquium.
It’s time for a new direction in Pacific studies, with more focus on looking from the inside out, rather than the outside in, a leading Samoan academic says.

Pacific academia 

Dr Malama Meleisea is the director of the Samoan Studies Centre at the National University of Samoa and delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Pacific research symposium, Kiwa’s Colloquium T+10 held at the University of Waikato on 12 November.

Dr Meleisea addressed around 100 students, researchers, academics and community members and says the time is right to take stock of Pacific academia.

 “[Samoan] academia is too colonial, we are on the outside looking in,” he says.

“We need to teach, research and publish on issues of national importance beyond the feel-good topics of identity and the colonial impact on language and customs, it’s time to move on.”

“It’s time to take a critical look at our culture and a more analytical and critical appraisal of our society, our culture; including things like environmental change. It seems to me the focus is too narrow; we need to be more selective about the influence of culture and religion on our direction.”

He says a colonial mindset means the country’s early history is largely ignored.

“There is a notion of our pre-Christian past as a time of darkness, essentially expunging 2-3000 years of history,” he says.

Three keynote speakers 

Dr Meleisea was one of three keynote speakers at the symposium. The others were Samoan journalist and scholar Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson, who discussed the Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership, and Tongan/Palagi academic and poet Dr Karlo Mila.

The colloquium included the first HIGH Talanoa methodology workshop, artist Donn Ratana creating an original piece inspired by the day and a student research competition, where eight Pacific scholars presented their research in the hope of winning one of five research prizes.

Great success  

Organiser Lora Vaioleti says Kiwa’s Colloquium was a great success and had received positive feedback.

“We wanted to make sure that Kiwa’s Colloquium was a platform to help connect Pacific researchers with each other and the community, and importantly, reveal a sense of common purpose. That being that no matter our fields, we are collectively working towards a brighter, more open and resilient Pacific future. It was rewarding to hear people say this event made them even more proud to be Pacific,” she says.

People from around New Zealand and also from Bolivia, Hawaii and many Pacific Islands attended the colloquium and Ms Vaioleti hopes for broader representation from New Zealand and Pacific tertiary institutions at the next one in 2015.

Results of Kiwa’s student research competition: 1st Byron Seiuli ($1000), 2nd Millie Tapusoa ($700), 3rd Vaivaifolau Kailahi ($500), special mentions and $150 to Zuabe Tinning and Elisapesi Havea.