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Our Pacific health research people

To meet our researchers visit our Research page

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:


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Division of Health Sciences Pacific Strategic Group

Paul Brunton with red background imageThe Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton now 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.

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

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HEDC Student Learning Development

Three PI students on campusHEDC Student Learning Development (fomerly the Student Learning 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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Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC)

Pacific Academic Staff Caucus members imageAn Otago Pacific Academic Staff Caucus (PASC), at the University of Otago, 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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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

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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.”

Contact the Pacific Development Office:

Pacific Development Office website

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Pacific Islands Centre

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 KumanyikaThe 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 about PIHPSA (PIRSSU website)

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Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)

PIRSSU folk packing 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 350 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.

Meet our PIRSSU staff

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 Student Support Unit (PIRSSU) website


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Pacific Islands support staff at the Division of Health Sciences

Rose 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 (PIRSSU) office.


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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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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 Professor Fa'afetai Sopoaga.

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:
Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit (PIRSSU)
Centre for Pacific Health (CPH)

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