Building Pacific research capacity is a significant feature of NZIPR and we are committed to increasing the number of active qualified Pacific researchers. Earlier this month NZIPR awarded three postgraduate one-off grant scholarships to Pacific students who are currently enrolled at each of the consortium universities ‐ the University of Auckland, the University of Otago, and Auckland University of Technology. The one-off grants are intended to enhance the linkages between NZIPR research projects and emerging Pacific researchers, and to support Pacific postgraduate researchers within New Zealand.

Meet our three emerging scholars and learn a bit more about their postgraduate research.

Sarah Kapeli

PhD Candidate

University of Auckland

I hail from Lapaha (Tonga) on my Father’s side and Auckland (New Zealand) on my Mother’s side. I come from a large family, and my husband is also Tongan. My driving force and passion behind all that I do, is family. Having a blended background has allowed me to experience life in a different way to those that identify with a single ethnicity. I have experienced both the privileges that come with being Palagi, and the challenges that come with being Tongan. Exposure to and knowledge of the Pacific and Western culture has fostered my growth and development within Pacific research – and my desire – to be a Pacific researcher, conducting Pacific research for our Pacific peoples. I am excited about the growth of Pacific research within psychology, and the role that I can play, especially towards benefitting our communities.

The title the  research project:

Pasifika Mental Health in Aotearoa

Research abstract

My PhD focuses on Understanding Pacific Mental Health Literacy in New Zealand. To put this into context, mental health literacy relates to knowledge and beliefs around mental health disorders that can aid in its recognition, management and/or prevention. Although we know very little about mental health literacy in our general New Zealand population, this area has not been directly examined among our Pacific population. Given the higher reported rates of mental health issues for our Pacific peoples in New Zealand, this research is crucial in understanding why and what we can do moving forward.

With the vast increase in New Zealand born Pacific peoples over the years, and expected increases in the years to come, we cannot ignore the transformative relationships that have developed between the people of our Pacific nations and our New Zealand. Applying a cultural lens can help us to understand differences between population groups, especially when engaging in areas of mental health. This puts my PhD research and I in a unique position, where I will explore Pacific understandings of mental health; differences and similarities between Western and Pacific understandings of mental health; Pacific ethnic comparisons; and assessment of current public mental health campaigns (amongst other areas).

Overall, the information gathered in this research project will be used to inform strategies that can facilitate early positive mental health outcomes, reducing stigma around mental health issues, and increasing information about mental health beliefs.

Antony Vavia

PhD Candidate

Auckland University of Technology

I am an Auckland University of Technology Pasifika PhD candidate of Cook Island and Fijian descent, whose primary research focus is on the marine environment in the Cook Islands. I hope to study, address and mitigate anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, caused by global challenges such as urbanisation in the Pacific Islands. With the Pacific being prone to the negative impacts of overfishing, urbanisation and climate change, his PhD programme will encapsulate quantitative and qualitative fisheries science, making use of both established scientific models and traditional ecological knowledge to devise a tailored made management strategy for the Cook Islands.

Research Project Title:

The effects of urbanisation on coral reef fish ecology in the Cook Islands

Research abstract:

This PhD research project will look at quantifying different levels of urbanisation in the Cook Islands and correlating these differences with the quality of the local coral reef ecosystems. This will involve surveying fish, coral and algae populations and diversity within different locations, conducting age/growth and reproductive analyses of key indicator species, examining ecosystem functions such as bio-erosion rates, and recording customary knowledge, behaviour and tenure strategies through ethnographic surveys. The study will extend from the populated island of Rarotonga to the relatively pristine and significantly less-populated island, Mitiaro. With this information, the impact of urbanisation on the coastal environment will be scrutinised in order to provide critical information that can be used to assist in decision-making processes which will improve the sustainability of Cook Islands’ coral reef ecosystems.

Charles Radclyffe

PhD Candidate

University of Otago

I live in the Solomon Islands and I am of Kiribati and British heritage. I graduated from the University of Otago in 2015 with First Class Honours in Anthropology and was subsequently awarded a Doctoral Scholarship. I am currently in my third year of a PhD and aims to develop a career in the Pacific in archaeological research and culture heritage management.

Project Title:

Preserving Forgotten Pasts: An Archaeological Study of Prehistoric Settlement and                      the Development of Exchange Systems in Manning Strait, Solomon Islands

Research abstract:

Archaeological research has played a fundamental role in shaping our understanding of when people first settled Oceania. Additionally, it has been crucial to modelling how communities have interacted with one another over millennia to form the rich cultural diversity visible in the Pacific today. My research builds upon these lines of inquiry with a strong focus on the history of the settlement of Solomon Islands and the development of prehistoric trade and exchange systems in the archipelago. I am investigating an understudied part of the western Solomon Islands known as Manning Strait, and I aim to explain when the region was first occupied, where its prehistoric occupants came from, and how they interacted with one another. My methodology draws upon archaeological field research and laboratory analysis of pottery, stone tools and shell ornaments. In addition, I encompass a systematic and comprehensive review of Melanesian ethnographic and historical literature. With funding provided by NZIPR, the project set out here seeks to contribute towards the completion of my doctoral study and the fulfilment of four objectives:

1)      To revisit Manning Strait in 2019 and carry out a final season of fieldwork. 

2)      To refine archaeological sequences of human occupation in this part of Solomon Islands using radiocarbon dating.

3)      To disseminate archaeological summary reports to participant communities in Manning Strait as well as to a wider array of public audiences in Solomon Islands. In collaboration with the Solomon Islands National Museum (SINM), achieving this objective will involve conducting radio information talks and creating educational booklets to distribute to rural communities.

4)      To propose to Solomon Islands Government (SIG) more effective legislative protection for indigenous culture heritage, both tangible and intangible.

Very little awareness exists in Solomon Islands, particularly in rural districts, about archaeology and the role SINM plays in preserving and protecting culture heritage. This problem is worsened by poor national legislative measures that are in place for the protection of indigenous culture heritage. The overall aim of the project is to contribute towards addressing these issues and to promote the advantageous role archaeological research can play in culture heritage management and conservation practices in Solomon Islands.

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