Fofonga - building Pacific capacity at Waipapa Taumata Rau

A new, university-wide platform is gearing up for launch in April with a goal to build Pacific research leadership and excellence. It will act as a landing place and home for all Pacific researchers at Waipapa Taumata Rau.

Fale Pasifika

Led by the office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific, approved by senate late 2022 and currently in its establishment phase, Fofonga for Pacific Research Excellence will be officially launched in April.

Behind this new initiative is the inaugural interim director Seuta’afili Dr Patrick Thomsen, research programme manager Ioana Hill and research administrator Allyssa Verner-Pula.

Dr Thomsen is looking forward to bringing the platform to life.

“Fofonga’s goal is to build Pacific research leadership and excellence, while acting as a landing place and home for all Pacific researchers at Waipapa Taumata Rau, where they can connect to our whanaunga across the whole University, to our communities, our government agencies, our whanaunga in the Pacific region and abroad,” Dr Thomsen explains.

“Through Fofonga, we aim to build a networked set of support mechanisms that encourage Pacific researchers to take the lead on knowledge generating activities that can benefit and serve the aspirations of our peoples and communities."

He says this will include services such as capacity-building workshops, facilitating collaborative Pacific-led research for Pacific communities and offering networking opportunities.

"It will also disseminate the wealth of excellent Pacific research our Pacific scholarly community is currently generating at Waipapa Taumata Rau."

Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific Dr Jemaima Tiatia is also positive about where Fofonga could take Pacific research.

“The university has shown a real commitment in its investment towards growing Pacific research capabilities and capacity, with Fofonga a living testimony to this".

"Although in its infancy, Fofonga is building real momentum; not at all surprising, with a star- studded team of emerging and innovative leaders deeply dedicated to the overall objectives. We have a wonderful relationship with the Office of Research, Strategy and Integrity (ORSI) who have supported us throughout the entire process. Like we always say, it really does take a village."

Next steps
The first major project for Fofonga is supporting the further development and sustainability of the Pacific Early Career Academics Network (PECAN), a University-wide group established in 2019 by Seuta’afili Dr Patrick Thomsen (Global Studies), Dr Sereana Naepi (Sociology), Dr Marcia Leenen-Young (Pacific Studies) Dr Sam Manuela (Psychology), Dr Karamia Muller (Architecture and Planning) and Dr Sisikula Sisifa (Business School), who is the current co-lead with Dr Moeata Keil (Sociology).

PECAN is the first such network at a university in New Zealand, and is focused on providing collaborative research opportunities embedded in Pacific research ethics and values, networking opportunities and career development support.

It aims to repair the broken pipeline of Pacific academics into continuing positions as lecturers, senior lecturers, associate professors and professors at New Zealand’s universities, and grow Pacific research leadership at Waipapa Taumata Rau in particular.

Media queries

Emmaline Pickering-Martin | Media adviser, Pacific
M: 027 282 4654