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BA BCom DipArts MA PhD (Otago)
Tongan and Samoan

Associate Dean (Pacific) Humanities
Master of Indigenous Studies Programme (MIndS) Co-ordinator


Office 4S5 Richardson Building, South Tower
Tel +64 3 479 8805


Michelle's research interests include Pacific Islands women and education, and the representation of Polynesian female body image with particular reference to sport in New Zealand.


  • PACI 301 Gafa o Tagata Pasifika – Pacific Diaspora in New Zealand
  • PACI 201 Contemporary Pacific Island Issues
  • PACR 101 Pacific Realities and University Learning

Guest lectures in various papers including:



  • Raphael Richter-Gravier, PhD (with Michael Reilly), Manu narratives of Polynesia. A comparative study of birds in 300 traditional Polynesian stories
  • Shona Kapea-Maslin, PhD (with Michael Reilly), Kākahu: The Threads that Bind them all
  • Ravana Saifofoi, MIndS, Pillars of Success: An Analysis of Pacific Students' Success within Tertiary Education in Canberra, Australia
  • Stormey Wehi, MIndS (with Karyn Paringatai), Māori Memes and Money: the commodification of Māori Bodies
  • Eirenei Tau'ai, MIndS, Living with kidney disease: A Thirteen Year Journey


  • Olataga Efu, PhD (with Murray Rae and Colin Gibson), The Language and Theology of the Samoan Methodist Hymn Book: Circumscribing Hymnal Translation from a Postcolonial Perspective (2018)
  • Sophie Karangaroa, MIndS,  Effective Retention and Completion Strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander University Students at Australian Universities (2017)
  • Isabel Radka, MIndS, Progress Towards the Revival of te reo Māori in the Rural Aotearoa/New Zealand Education System of the 21st Century (2017)
  • Erica Anderson, PhD (with Michael Reilly), Domestic Violence and the law in Rarotonga: The psychological impacts on Cook Islands Women (2015)
  • Malia Lameta, MA, I Am The Apple Of My Brother's Eye: An investigation into the evolving roles of Samoan women with particular reference to religion and gender relations (2015)
  • Ane Tatu, BA(Hons), Are you Dongan or Tongan? (2015)
  • Marsa Dodson, PhD (with Michael Reilly), (2014)
  • Delyn Day, PhD (with Poia Rewi and Jim Williams), A Kui mā, a Koro mā: he wānanga I te momo iranga I ētahi kōrero Māori o nehe: The function of gender in ancient Māori narratives to create codified and metaphorical meaning (2012)
  • Esmay Eteuati, MIndS (with Associate Professor Henny Bryant-Tokalau), E te sau ma ou fa'aniusila na…You bring with you your New Zealand ways. Roots migration and its impact on Samoan identity affirmation (2010)
  • Charis Brown, MIndS, Cultural Appropriation: Use of Minority Culture Within a Commercial Environment (2006)
  • Julie Segi, MIndS, What is Feagaiga? Understanding a Samoan Practice with a Particular Reference to the Sister Role (2004)
  • Malia Lameta, BA(Hons), The changing role of Samoan women in Samoan society (2006)

Research grants

  • Health Research Council of New Zealand and Pasifika Medical Conference.  Sponsorship Travel Grant $918.76 (2006). Project title: Notions of the Pacific Island Female body and the impact on the Pacific participation in the sport of netball
  • Schaaf, M. (2002). Division of Humanities Research Grant, University of Otago, ($1,500.00). Project title: Pacific Island Women, Body Image and Sport
  • Schaaf, M. with Hilary Rader, Erika Wold, Ojeya Cruz Banks and Natalie Poland (2012). Division of Humanities Research Grant, University of Otago, ($5,975.00). Project title: The Art of Shigeyuki Kihara: A Research Symposium
  • Schaaf, M with Claire Freeman, Christine Ergler, Michelle Schaaf, Anita Latai (2018), UORG 2018 ($27, 368.00). Project title: Childhood in a changing Pacific


  • Nominated for OUSA Teaching Award 2016 and 2017
  • Recipient of OUSA Inaugural Summer School 2016 Teaching Excellence Awards: Most Inclusive Teacher


Te Awhe-Downey, L., Thompson-Fawcett, M., & Schaaf, M. (2023). Ko wai au? Encouraging sense of belonging amongst Māori diaspora: A whānau-based rangahau. Proceedings of the Graduate Research Student Symposium. (pp. 25-26). Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Schaaf, R., Kalavite, T., Lei-Mata'afa, S., Nafatali, K., Alai, G., & Anderson, V. (2023, November). Teu le vā Tauhivā: Pacific relationality as a model for ethical practice in academia. Verbal presentation at the 51st Annual Conference of the Oceania Comparative & International Education Society (OCIES), Apia, Samoa. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Richards, R., Walter, I., Finigan, A., Ruhe, T., Avia, L., Schaaf, M., & Fehoko, E. (Eds.). (2023). Proceedings of the Pacific Postgraduate Symposium: Pacific Voices XX. Dunedin, New Zealand: Pacific Islands Centre, University of Otago. 44p. Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Edited volume of conference proceedings

Freeman, C., Ergler, C., Latai-Niusulu, A., Schaaf, M., Tanielu, H., & Taua'a, S. (2023). Cross-cultural ethics: Working with Pacific Island children [Contribution to the article Expanding the scope of ethical research with and for children and young people: Six viewpoints on crisis, cross-cultural working and reciprocity]. Children's Geographies. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/14733285.2023.2259331 Journal - Research Other

Freeman, C., Latai Niusulu, A., Ergler, C., Schaaf, M., Taua'a, T. S., & Tanielu, H. (2023). Pacific Island children: The use of maps in helping better understand children's lives. Asia Pacific Viewpoint. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/apv.12379 Journal - Research Article

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