Damon Salesa: first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Pacific)

A month into his new role as the University of Auckland’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor (Pacific), Associate Professor Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa speaks to Newsroom about education, leadership and the need for New Zealand to recognise itself as a Pacific nation.

Associate Professor Damon Salesa: the first university Pro-Vice Chancellor (Pacific)
Associate Professor Damon Salesa: the first university Pro-Vice Chancellor (Pacific)

According to Dr Salesa, his new role is a sign that the university recognises the importance of the Pacific to New Zealand. “This is the first time a university in New Zealand, and effectively the world, has appointed a Pacific pro vice-chancellor and it shows an understanding that the Pacific has to be at the centre of what we do as a university.

”It recognises that we need Pacific leadership and Pacific presence at the most important decision-making places in the university.”

The University of Auckland is the largest provider of university-level education to Pacific people in New Zealand.

“So we take the job of producing the next generation of Pacific doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers and performers and artists very, very seriously,” he says.

As the university continues to build, Dr Salesa will be using his role to make sure the future of the Pacific is taken into account, on equal terms, when decisions are made.

“And that includes making sure that we're building a university that is welcoming for Pacific students and their families, and building new knowledge that Pacific communities and countries can use to ensure their growth,” he says.

He sees this support of Pacific neighbours as a real advantage with opportunities to help with research in the region and foster positive relationships with regional universities like the National University of Samoa and the University of South Pacific.

“There are so many possibilities for us to grow together with other Pacific nations, not just our local Pacific communities, encourage Pacific research and invest in Pacific languages. This is all really exciting and leads me to think that there is a really bright future for the Pacific here in New Zealand.”

Dr Salesa is confident he will see a future with more Pacific academics. “The question is how quickly and the answer is not quick enough. But one of things I'll be doing immediately is formalising a plan that ensures we are nurturing and supporting our Pacific staff.

“The fact is, when other universities in New Zealand look to hire Pacific staff, they are looking to hire our students, our graduates or our junior staff which means the work we do here in Auckland is helping strengthen our national effort.”

Video used with permission from Newsroom Damon Salesa: Pākehā are Pacific Island people too published on 4 December 2018.