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Pacific health community and  partnerships

Associate Dean (Pacific)

Faumuina Sopoaga image Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga is the Associate Dean (Pacific) in the Division of Health Sciences.

Within Va'a o Tautai, the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific) provides oversight for all Pacific activities in the Division of Health Sciences. As the Director of the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU), her role is to recruit, retain, and ensure a high completion rate for Pacific students in the Division. The support services provided for Pacific students is guided through evidence from the close monitoring and evaluation of all support services. She is responsible for monitoring the Divisional response to the Pacific Strategic Framework goals, provides guidance for engagement with Pacific communities and led developments which resulted in the establishment of the Otago Pacific Academic Caucus.

Faumuina is the high chief title from Fagaloa, Samoa. She trained as a medical doctor with expertise in public health and general practice. She is leading development in the Pacific Health curriculum in Health Sciences, through the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, and has wide connections and networks with the Pacific community in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Her research interests are in health workforce capacity building, transitioning students to higher education and Pacific health curriculum. She is currently undertaking doctoral studies on 'The health and wellbeing of Pacific students in Higher Education'.

Va'a o Tautai
Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific)
Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga's Health Sciences research profile

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Centre for Pacific Health

Centre for Pacific Health bird logo The Centre for Pacific Health was launched in 2018 to house the research and teaching activities of the Va’a o Tautai. It is now home to a dedicated team of Pacific and non-Pacific researchers working in areas of importance to Pacific communities in New Zealand and internationally.
Va’a o Tautai

Alongside research, the Centre for Pacific Health also provides leadership in teaching Pacific health across Health Sciences professional programmes, the Bachelor of Health Sciences, and other areas of health curricula where Pacific perspectives are important:

Email centre.pacifichealth@otago.ac.nz
Web otago.ac.nz/centre-pacific-health

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Division of Health Sciences Pacific Strategic Group

Paul Brunton with red background imageThe Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton chairs the Pacific Strategic Group, which drives strategic direction and development throughout the Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago.

Members of this group are nominated by the Deans of each Faculty or School within the Division.

Pacific Strategic Framework (PDF 2.8 MB)
Membership of the Pacific Strategic Group (OADP website)

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Health Research Council of New Zealand

Tolotea Lanumata, Project Manager, Pacific Health Research imageThe Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) manages the Government's investment in health research. Their vision is to improve the health and quality of life of all New Zealanders.

The primary role of Pacific health research at the HRC is to generate knowledge and understanding of Pacific peoples that will improve their health outcomes.

Ms Tolotea Lanumata is Project Manager, Pacific Health Research. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Education and Psychology) from Victoria University of Wellington and a Master of Arts from the University of Auckland. She has a vast amount of experience working in the Pacific research space, including many years working at the University of Otago, Wellington’s Department of Public Health.

Pacific Health research (HRC website)

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HEDC Student Learning Development

Three PI students on campus imageHEDC Student Learning Development (formerly Student Development Centre) provides free and confidential academic support to students studying at Otago. Whether you are working hard to get a pass mark, seeking to gain a top result, or catching up after a break away from study, all students can benefit from our services:

  • Workshops for undergraduate and postgraduate students
  • Online resources and self-study guides
  • One-to-one appointments with a learning adviser

A range of skill development programmes and great opportunities to develop your employment skills through helping other students.

HEDC Student Learning Development website

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Ministry of Education

3 students studying at a table image Ko 'etau ngaue fakatahataha te tau ikuna ai, "working together we will succeed”.

The Ministry of Education's Pacific Islands Polynesian Education Foundation Scholarships (PIPEF) awards 3 types of scholarships to Pasifika students enrolled in tertiary study in New Zealand:

  • Individual (undergraduate) scholarships
  • Postgraduate scholarship
  • Norman Kirk Memorial Trust scholarships

PIPEF was established by an Act of Parliament in 1972 to promote and encourage the better education of Pasifika students and to give financial assistance for that purpose. It’s funded by the Norman Kirk Memorial Trust and Ministry of Education.

Pacific Islands Polynesian Education Foundation Scholarships information (Ministry of Education website)

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Ministry of Health

Pathology student in a lab imageTalofa lava, malo e lelei, kia orana, taloha ni, fakalofa lahi atu, ni sa bula vinaka, kia ora, welcome.

The Ministry of Health is committed to working with the health and disability sector to improve Pacific peoples’ health outcomes and reduce inequalities experienced by Pacific peoples.

Our Pacific Health webpage offers information on the Ministry of Health’s work to achieve health and wellbeing for Pacific peoples, including developing the Pacific health workforce.

Pacific Health (Ministry of Health website)

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National University of Samoa

Samoan visitors welcomed image

An Otago alumna, Dr Malama Tafuna'i is at the forefront of the new Faculty of Medicine, National University of Samoa, and is leading the coordination of teaching for students, while having a special interest in providing local and regional solutions for Pacific health issues. Dr Tafuna'i is also a member of the Centre for Pacific Health.

Otago's commitment to supporting New Zealand's Pacific Island neighbours has not only been demonstrated through the activities being implemented through the Pacific Strategic Framework, but also through the goodwill of the many Otago staff and medical practitioners who have volunteered to share their expertise and teaching in the region.

Photo from left: Professor Peter Crampton, Leituala Dr Ben Matalavea, Dr Malama Tafuna'i and Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga.

National University of Samoa website

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Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC)

Pacific Academic Staff Caucus members imageAn Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus will support teaching and research excellence, while staying in tune with Pacific Island peoples’ worldviews and aspirations.

PASC also wants to strengthen the University’s links with local Pasefika communities—which is one of the University’s stated aims—and to raise the profile of Pasefika academics, their research and teaching. That will include developing a pool of Pasefika staff who can provide the media with prompt, expert comment on any public issues affecting Pasefika people. Pasefika academics also aim to give back to their local communities in New Zealand by holding public seminars and workshops about issues of interest.

The Caucus also aims to support research and foster career pathways for Pasefika postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows, while simultaneously encouraging Pasefika students in general to have a sense of social responsibility and effective citizenship.

The Caucus is open to all Pasefika academics and plans to identify Pasefika champions across all the University’s divisions and campuses.

Caucus formalised for Pacific academic staff (Otago Bulletin)

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Otago University Students' Association (OUSA)

Pacific students sitting on steps imageOUSA provides members with representation, welfare, advocacy, recreation, fun events, and media. It is completely independent from the rest of the University.

OUSA website

OUSA has a number of activity and social groups for students from many Pacific communities.

OUSA clubs and societies listings

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Pacific advisory committees

A number of Pacific advisory committees support the work of the Associate Dean (Pacific) within the Division of Health Sciences at the University of Otago.

Pacific advisory committees (Office of Associate Dean Pacific)

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Pacific at Dunedin School of Medicine

Pacific seashell imageSupporting the health of Pacific communities through leading research programmes and the training of Pacific health professionals

Here at the University of Otago we have a vibrant Pacific community. The Dunedin School of Medicine contributes to this community by training the next generation of health professionals, and conducting research to inform Pasifika health policy and programmes.

We proudly celebrate the great people, partners and research which contribute to the goal of good health for Pacific communities.

Pacific at Dunedin School of Medicine website

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Pacific Development Office

Tasileta Teevale imageDr Tasileta Teevale, Director Pacific Development, University of Otago, says, “my position was set up to monitor the progress of the Pacific Strategic Framework, which is the University’s response to its charter goals in terms of meeting the needs of Pacific peoples. The Framework sets aspirational targets for Pacific student achievement at Otago".

Pacific Strategic Framework (PDF 2.8 MB)

“The expectation is that Pacific students should achieve on a par with every other student. At the moment there is a bit of a gap compared to the rest of the student body – we are working to raise that level.”

Read more about the initiatives:

Pacific focus (Issue 41 Otago Magazine)

Contact the Pacific Development Office:

Pacific Development Office website

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Pacific Islands Centre

Nina Kirifi-Alai image As a student of Pacific descent, you will be well supported when you arrive here at Otago. The University welcomes the diversity Pacific people bring to Otago and supports its Pacific students through a range of networks and support systems.

Coordinating all of the support services available to Pacific students is the Pacific Islands Centre, your home away from home while at University. You will be welcomed as a family member and we will make sure that you return to your family and community with your mission accomplished.

Pacific Islands Centre website

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Pacific Islands Health Professional Students' Association (PIHPSA)

PIHPSA members with special guest Shiriki Kumanyika imageThe Pacific Islands Health Professional Students' Association (PIHPSA) is an independent student body that supports Pacific students, and encourages networking between students, staff, and working health professionals.

PIHPSA's activities include mentoring, advocacy, organising social events, sending students to conferences, cultural dances, and encouraging research.

More information about PIHPSA (PIRSSU website)

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Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)

PIRSSU folk with donations for Samoa image
PIRSSU staff help pack donated medical goods for Samoa.

Talofa lava, kia orana, fakalofa lahi atu, mauri, ni sa bula vinaka, taloha ni, malo e lelei and warm pacific greetings!

The Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU) looks after approximately 500 Pacific students from New Zealand and the Pacific region studying in the Division of Health Sciences. We offer excellent training in health professional and allied health programmes, nurture successful research careers, and offer quality pastoral care in an inclusive cultural environment. We look forward to welcoming you to our Pacific community in Health Sciences.

We engage with Pacific communities, schools, career advisors, government, and non-government organisations to achieve these aims. Our activities are guided by the Division of Health Sciences' Pacific Strategic Framework, which has six areas of focus:

  • Demonstrating and valuing leadership on Pacific matters
  • Enhancing capability
  • Encouraging Pacific research excellence
  • Strengthening community engagement
  • Developing Pacific curriculum
  • Contributing to the Pacific region and international progress

Pacific Islands Research and Support Services Unit website

Email pirssu@otago.ac.nz

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Pacific Islands support staff at the Division of Health Sciences

Rose Richards and colleagues welcoming guests imageThere are Pacific support staff throughout the University of Otago's Division of Health Sciences. Please feel free to contact them directly:

List of Division of Health Sciences contacts

Alternatively, you are welcome to contact the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit office.

Email pirssu@otago.ac.nz

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Pacific Trust Otago

Young people prepare for a boating activity imageDunedin Pacific Trust Otago is mandated by the Otago Pacific Communities to provide Education, Social, Health and Advocacy Services to all Pacific communities and clients within Otago.

Pacific Trust Otago provides services under an adapted Fonofale (Holistic) Model of Care. Our aim is to support and mentor families to navigate change to build strong and sustainable communities.

Pacific Trust Otago website

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POPO Foundation Programme (PFP)

Three Pacific Health Sciences students imageThe Foundation Year course at Otago is a great way to prepare for your first year of university. It also gives you time to adjust to the student life in Dunedin.

Each year, the POPO (Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago) Foundation Scholarship Programme (PFP) supports 10 Pacific students who:

  • Are studying the Foundation Year Health Sciences course, and
  • Intend to apply for the Health Sciences First Year course at Otago, or any other health-related programme

The 10 PFP students will receive a guaranteed place in a University of Otago residential college.

More about the POPO Foundation Programme (PIRSSU website)

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Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies

Te Tumu website image of a waka in a landscape image Our multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary staff, students, teaching and research is reflected in our name Te Tumu, a pan-Polynesian term which is often used in Māori in the phrase te tumu herenga waka—the post for tying up canoes. We liken ourselves as a foundation which staff, students and guests can anchor themselves to for the duration of their stay at the University of Otago.

We hope that you, like many others who have also done, choose Te Tumu as a place to become critically aware of the world around you and gain the skills to actively participate in that world to change it for the betterment of all Māori, Pacific and Indigenous peoples.

Te Tumu website

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Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital (Samoa)

Samoan visitors welcomed imageA graduate of Otago, Leituala Dr Ben Matalavea is now the Clinical Director of Tupua Tamasese Meaole National Hospital in Samoa, and the private physician for the Samoa Head of State. He has worked both in New Zealand and Samoa and provides leadership for workforce and capacity building in Samoa.

Otago's commitment to supporting New Zealand's Pacific Island neighbours has not only been demonstrated through the activities being implemented through the Pacific Strategic Framework, but also through the goodwill of the many Otago staff and medical practitioners who have volunteered to share their expertise and teaching in the region.

Photo from left: Professor Peter Crampton, Leituala Dr Ben Matalavea, Dr Malama Tafuna'i and Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga.

Pacific Strategic Framework (PDF 2.8 MB)

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Va'a o Tautai

Vaa o Tautai canoe imageVa'a o Tautai provides a range of academic programmes and support for Pacific students, leads the way in relation to Pacific health teaching and research, and provides strategic leadership for Pacific developments and regional engagement for the Division of Health Sciences.

Va'a o Tautai is led by Faumuina Associate Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga, Associate Dean (Pacific), for the Division of Health Sciences.

The University of Otago Pacific Strategic Framework 2013-2020 is the key document that underpins the work being undertaken within Va’a o Tautai, as well as guiding Pacific engagements across the University.

Va’a o Tautai includes the:
Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific) (OADP)
Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)
Centre for Pacific Health (CPH)

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