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Division of Sciences grows Pacific connections

MoU image
Celebrating the MoU at the Moana Nui Festival from left to right, Peni Qauqau, Prof Richard Barker, Hon Minister ‘Aupito Tofāe Su’a William Sio, Finau Taungāpeau, Sailosi Pole, and Dr Losā Moata’ane.

The Division of Sciences celebrated its growing relationship with local Pacific communities at last weekend’s inaugural Moana Nui festival, following the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with local provider Pacific Trust Otago (PTO).

The MoU between the Division and PTO provides a mechanism for the Sciences to engage with the local Pacific community, and for the PTO to leverage the high-quality research capability and capacity of the Division.

Sciences Associate Dean Pacific and PTO Board member Dr Losā Moata’ane says the MoU is all about breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for student placements, while also returning results of research back to communities for their benefit.

“We wish to make the University accessible in terms of information, knowledge and people, and also allow the University to grow its understanding of, and engagement with, the Pacific communities,” Dr Moata’ane says.

"Our aim is simple, but it is a big one. To continue to grow the smartest Pasifika scientists in New Zealand, in the Pacific Region, and internationally, and to be the best partner we can be in working with our Pacific community on our shared goals."

Sciences Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barker says the University’s Pacific Strategic Framework (PSF) sets out how Otago wants to engage with and support Pacific communities, and the Division is also committed to supporting and developing Pacific research and capacity in alignment with this framework.

“We are committed to ongoing engagement and building the capacity and capability of our Pacific communities,” Professor Barker says. “The MoU formalises this commitment and highlights the seriousness of our intent, but we see it as a continuation of an existing relationship rather than something new.”

Dr Moata’ane says signing the MoU at the Divisional level was appropriate given the size of PTO and the formal relationship is a great starting point to support the local community.

PTO recently held the inaugural Moana Nui festival at the Forsyth Barr Stadium supported by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, the Dunedin City Council and Dunedin Venues.

PTO general manager Finau Taungāpeau, an alumni of the Department of Human Nutrition, says the MoU provides a platform for meaningful partnership work that ensures quality support, commitment, and accountability from the Division.

Meanwhile in the Division of Sciences, Dr Moata’ane and the Pacific Support team are developing a Village Concept reflecting the ‘world of Pacific people’ to connect the 14 Departments and six schools and programmes based on areas of expertise. 

“Pasifika people don’t necessarily recognise the subject areas that Departments are divided into, but instead can relate to the narrative of these areas and how they relate to their own lives.”

Professor Barker adds the timing of the MoU also coincides with last year’s development of the positioning statement for the Division Our People. Our Place.

Our place is very much in the Pacific and the Pacific community are very much a part of Our people.

“Our aim is simple, but it is a big one,” Professor Barker says. “To continue to grow the smartest Pasifika scientists in New Zealand, in the Pacific Region, and internationally, and to be the best partner we can be in working with our Pacific community on our shared goals.

“Our hope is that Dunedin is also seen as a haven for Pacific people.”