Collective Indigenous approaches to centring Pacific voices of leadership for our futures

Keywords: Pacific, collective, voices, leadership, education, Indigenous storywork


Education systems in western nations are often built on a long history of centralising the western canon of knowledge and colonial norms. These norms are perpetuated and reinforced via western research which amplifies the voices of the dominant, while working to silence the values, practices, and knowledges of minority groups. As a colonial nation, Aotearoa New Zealand continues to be impacted by its colonial histories, where colonial (read white) ways of being, knowing, and understanding dominate initial teacher education, schools, tertiary institutions, research, and our everyday lives. However, within education and research more generally, Indigenous and Pacific researchers and practitioners have been working hard to carve out space in institutions to challenge colonial hierarchies of knowledge and make space for Indigenous ways of being, knowing, seeing, doing, and feeling. This article contributes to the work being done by Indigenous and Pacific scholars in Aotearoa New Zealand by detailing our collective, relational approach to convening the special issue of Shifting the System for the Ethnographic Edge journal. Convening a special issue is not unique and groups of academics do it regularly across a range of academic journals and fields. However, our experiences of convening this special issue were quite different. Here we share the journey and reflect on how our focus on privileging the often-marginalised voices of Pacific school leaders was underpinned by an Indigenous, collective approach embedded in the pedagogical practice of Indigenous Storywork. Employing collaborative critical autoethnography, we articulate the ways in which our engagement with each other and the authors within this special issue disrupted western power relations often present in interactions between ‘researchers’ within the university and ‘practitioners’ at the coalface. Furthermore, we demonstrate how engaging in relational practices builds a space that encourages the principles of respect, responsibility, reverence, reciprocity, holism, interrelatedness, and synergy.


Allen, J. M. (2015). Who represents the Southside?: Youth perspectives and news media representations of South Auckland [Master’s thesis]. University of Auckland.

Allen, J. M., & Webber, M. (2019). Stereotypes of minorities and education. In S. Ratuva (Ed.), The Palgrave handbook of ethnicity (pp. 1–21). Palgrave.

Anae, M. (2010). Research for better Pacific schooling in New Zealand: Teu le va – a Samoan perspective. MAI Review, (1), 1–24.

Archibald, J.-A. (2008). Indigenous storywork: Educating the heart, mind, body, and spirit. UBC Press.

Archibald, J.-A., Lee-Morgan, J., & De Santolo, J. (2019). Introduction – Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork and methodology. In J.-A. Archibald, J. Lee-Morgan, J. De Santolo, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology (pp. 1–15). ZED Books.

Bennett, J. (2022). “I Sengsong San Diego”: The Chamoru Cultural Festival and the formation of a Chamoru diasporic community. Pacific Arts, 22(1), 30–47.

Bishop, R. (2008). Te Kotahitanga: Kaupapa Māori in mainstream classrooms. In N. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp. 439–458). Sage.

Boonk, L., Gijselaers, H. J., Ritzen, H., & Brand-Gruwel, S. (2018). A review of the relationship between parental involvement indicators and academic achievement. Educational Research Review, 24, 10–30.

Cunningham, J, R., & Wendt Samu, T. (2022). Pacific parental engagement and intergenerational storytelling in Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 57(1), 125–141.

Fa'avae, D. T. M., Faleolo, R., Havea, E. H., Enari, D., Wright, T., & Chand, A. (2022). e-talanoa as an online research method: extending va-relations across spaces. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 1–11.

Fa'avae, D. T. M., & Fonua, S. (2020). Talatalanoa as ongoing complex conversations and negotiation of practice in higher education. New Zealand Annual Review of Education, 26, 83–89.

Faleolo, R. (2021). Talanoa moe vā: Pacific knowledge-sharing and changing sociocultural spaces during COVID-19. Waikato Journal of Education [Special issue: Talanoa Vā: Honouring Pacific Research and Online Engagement], 26, 125–134.

Fasavalu, M. (2015). Tales from above the tail: Samoan students’ experiences of teacher actions as culturally responsive pedagogy [Master’s thesis]. University of Auckland.

Halapua, S. (2002). Talanoa process: The case of Fiji. East-West Centre.

Hunter, J., Hunter, R., Bills, T., Cheung, I., Hannant, B., Kritesh, K., & Lachaiya, R. (2016). Developing equity for Pasifika learners within a New Zealand context: Attending to culture and values. New Zealand Journal of Education Studies, 51, 197-209. DOI 10.1007/s40841-016-0059-7

Iosefo, F. (2019). Settling the soul through va' (relational) ethics: An ekphrastic review of Hinekura Smith’s “Whatuora: Theorizing ‘new’ indigenous methodology from ‘old’ indigenous weaving practice.” Art/Research International: A Transdisciplinary Journal, 4(1), 420–424.

Ka'ili, T., O. (2005). Tauhi vā: Nurturing Tongan sociospatial ties in Maui and beyond. The Contemporary Pacific, 17(1), 83–114.

Ka’ili, T., O. (2017). Marking Indigeneity: The Tongan art of sociospatial relations. Tucson, Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Ka'ili, T., Māhina, 'O., & Addo, P. (2017). Introduction: Ta-va (time-space): The birth of an indigenous Moana theory. Pacific Studies, 40(1/2), 1–17.

Lee-Morgan, J. B. J. (2019). Pūrākau from the inside-out: Regenerating stories for cultural sustainability. In J.-A. Archibald, J. Lee-Morgan, J. De Santolo, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology (pp. 151–166). ZED Books.

Māhina, 'O. (2010). Tā, vā, and moana: Temporality, spatiality, and indigeneity. Pacific Studies, 33(2/3), 168–202.

Mara, D. (2014). Pacific students: Positioned as failures, targets and consumers. In V. Carpenter & S. Osborne (Eds.), Twelve thousand hours: Education and poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand (pp. 102–122). Dunmore Publishing.

Milne, A. (2017). Coloring in the white spaces: Reclaiming cultural identity in whitestream schools. Peter Lang.

Ministry of Education. (2018). Tapasā: Cultural competencies framework for teachers of Pacific learners.

Ministry of Education. (2020). Action Plan for Pacific Education 2020–2030.

Na’puti, T. R. (2019). Archipelagic rhetoric: Remapping the Marianas and challenging militarisation from “a stirring place”. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 16(1), 4–25.

Pacific Early Career Researchers Collective, Allen, J. M. U., Bennett, J. L., Clark, Z. L., Escott, K.-R., Fa'avae, D. T. M., Kaulamatoa, J. L., Kaulamatoa, R., Lolohea, T., Porter, M., Pulu, V., Tapuke, S., Ualesi, Y., Withers, S. E., & Woolner, V. H. (2022). Relational and collective excellence: Unfolding the potential of Pacific early career researchers. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, ahead-of-print, 1–17.

Pene, F., Taufe'ulungaki, A. M., & Benson, C. (2002). Tree of opportunity: Re-thinking Pacific education. In F. Pene, A. M. Taufe'ulungaki, & C. Benson (Eds.), Re-thinking Pacific education (pp. 1–3). University of the South Pacific, Institute of Education.

Penetito, W. (2002). Personal reflections on developments in Māori education: 1970-2001. In F. Pene, A. M. Taufe'ulungaki, & C. Benson (Eds.), Re-thinking Pacific education (pp. 125–132). University of the South Pacific, Institute of Education.

Pihama, L., Campbell, D., & Greensill, H. (2019). Whānau storytelling as Indigenous pedagogy: tiakina te pā harakeke. In J.-A. Archibald, J. Lee-Morgan, J. De Santolo, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology (pp. 137–150). ZED Books.

Rose G. (1997). Situating knowledges: positionality, reflexivities and other tactics. Progress in Human Geography, 21(3), 305–320.

Samu, T. (2015). The “Pasifika Umbrella” and quality teaching: Understanding and responding to the diverse realities within. Waikato Journal of Education, 20(3).

Sarris, G. (1993). Keeping Slug Woman alive: A holistic approach to American Indian texts. University of California Press.

Smith, C. (2016). Indigenous pathways into social research: Voices of a new generation. In B. Chilisa, F. Cram, & D. M. Mertens (Eds.), Indigenous pathways into social research: Voices of a new generation (pp. 89–99). Routledge.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books/University of Otago Press.

Si’ilata, R. (2014). Va‘a Tele: Pasifika learners riding the success wave on linguistically and culturally responsive pedagogies [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Auckland.

Si’ilata, R., Gaffney, J., Stephenson, J., & McCaffery, J. (2015). Scaffolding new entrant Pasifi ka children into English medium schooling – Design and implementation of New Entrant Pilot Programme (PNEP) Gālulue Fa‘atasi: Final Milestone. Report to the Ministry of Education. Auckland UniServices, Auckland.

Smith, L. T. (2019). Foreword. In J.-A. Archibald, J. Lee-Morgan, J. De Santolo, & L. T. Smith (Eds.), Decolonizing research: Indigenous storywork as methodology (pp. xi-xii). ZED Books.

Suaalii-Sauni, T. (2017). The va and kaupapa Māori. In T. K. Hoskins & A. Jones (Eds.), Critical conversations in Kaupapa Māori (pp. 132–144). Huia (NZ).

Suaalii-Sauni, T., & Fulu-Aiolupotea, S. M. (2014). Decolonising Pacific research, building Pacific research communities, and developing Pacific research tools: The case of the talanoa and the faafaletui in Samoa. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 55(3), 331–344.

Trask, H-K. (1999). Writing in captivity: Poetry in a time of decolonisation. Wasafiri, 12(25), 42–43.

Tomlins-Jahnke, H. (2008). The place of cultural standards in indigenous education. MAI Review LW, 1(1), 11.

Tualaulelei, E. M., Mayer, F. L. J., & Hunkin, G. (2015). Diacritical marks and the Samoan language. The Contemporary Pacific, 27(1), 184–207.

Ualesi, Y. M. (2021). Culturally responsive, sustaining and safe youth mentoring practice in Aotearoa New Zealand – A va relational approach [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Auckland.

Vaioleti, T. M. (2006). Talanoa research methodology: A developing position on Pacific research. Waikato Journal of Education, 12, 21–34.

Vaioleti, T. (2013). Talanoa: Differentiating the talanoa research methodology from phenomenology, narrative, Kaupapa Māori and feminist methodologies. Te Reo, 56, 191–212.

Veikune, A. H., Oldehaver, J., Johansson-Fua, S. u., & Jesson, R. (2020). Pedagogy and relationality: Weaving the approaches. In S. u. Johansson-Fua, R. Jesson, R. Spratt, & E. Coxon (Eds.), Relationality and learning in Oceania: Contextualizing education for development (pp. 102–115). Koninklijke Brill.

Wendt, A. (1996). Tatauing the post-colonial body. Span, 42(43), 15–29.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is ceremony: Indigenous research methods. Fernwood.

Wright, T. (2022). External quality assurance policy enactment in Samoa: A study in relational tension, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 44(2), 151–165.

How to Cite
Uasike Allen, J. M., Melini Fasavalu, T., Iosefo, F., Ualesi, T. Y., FaʻavaeD. T. M., & Cunningham, E. (2022). Collective Indigenous approaches to centring Pacific voices of leadership for our futures. Ethnographic Edge, 5(2).