On 27 November 2023, 20 years of the University of Otago’s Pacific Voices Postgraduate Symposium was celebrated with alumni, staff and current Pacific students at the Auahi Ora space in the Student Union Building. The evening programme began with an address from Tofilau Nina Kirifi-Alai, past manager of the Pacific Islands Centre and current Pacific Community Engagement Manager in Auckland. Tofilau shared reflections on establishing the symposium after seeing the need for postgraduate support in 2002 and gave encouraging words for organisers and students taking the symposium forward.
Her opening remarks were followed by an address from Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research & Enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie who commented on Pacific research within the context of the University’s strategic direction. He enthusiastically supported Tofilau’s opening remarks and later engaged openly with the audience during the Q&A session at the end of the evening.
As a part of the programme, the symposium organisers and staff from the Pacific Development Office teamed up with the Pacific Thought Network (PacTNet) to arrange a public panel discussion. Earlier this year in May, PacTNet held its inaugural Pacific Lecture which was given by Tootooleaava Dr Fanaafi Aiono Le-Tagaloa and the panel gathered key Pacific thinkers from our university community to reflect on the ideas and comments made in the lecture. The panellists were Professor Rose Richards (Acting Director, Pacific Development Office & Co-Director of Coastal People, Southern Skies), Dr Tui Rakuita from Sociology and our very own, Dr Jess Pasisi. All of the panellists gave stimulating thoughts on Tootooleaava’s lecture, ranging from comment on Pacific leadership at the University of Otago, the significance of the diaspora to Pacific thinking, and the romanticism with which we hold Indigenous knowledge.
The PacTNet steering committee is made up of a number of our Te Tumu staff: Professor Patrick Vakaoti, Dr Telesia Kalavite and Dr Emma Powell. They are also joined by Dr Allamanda Fa‘atoese who is based in Christchurch and Dr Charles Radclyffe from Archaeology.
A number of our Te Tumu students participated and presented on their research during the Pacific Voices Symposium XX which was held on the following day, Tuesday 28 November 2023. For photos and coverage, check out the story from Pacific Communications Advisor, Keilah Vaetoru Fox, here.