Why Pacific Research?

There are three key reasons why research with Pacific peoples should incorporate Pacific methods.

First, Pacific research is an alternative way of thinking about how research could be conducted within a culturally appropriately framework. As Fredericks (2007) points out: The enacting of our rights within the realms of research includes visioning and voicing what we think, what we need and what we want.

It is through our visions that we can develop research processes that are about us. (p. 42). It also empowers people, reinforces a strong sense of identity, builds confidence and encourages independence. Promoting a Pacific way of knowing is not only about reclaiming our identity, it is also about finding out how we gather and understand knowledge for Pacific people.

Second, Pacific research is empowering.  Self determination is a process that involves regaining power and control to design, conduct, and disseminate research in a culturally appropriate way. This implies that outside researchers (Porsanger, 2004) will not be able to exploit and devalue Pacific world views. As Smith (1999) argues: Communities and indigenous activists have openly challenged the research community about such things as racist practices and attitudes, ethnocentric assumptions and exploitative research, sounding warning bells that research can no longer be conducted with Indigenous communities as if their view did not count or their lives did not matter. (p. 9) Furthermore, Pacific researchers today no longer see themselves as victims of research but as activists challenging research inequality (Smith, 2004).

Thirdly, Pacific peoples believe that research is a collective process (Steinhauer, 2002), grounded in the fundamental belief that people are connected to each other and their environment. This belief also underpins other Indigenous studies such as Kaupapa Maori research (Bishop, 1996). It is vital that Pacific research is grounded in Pacific ways of planning, designing and conducting research to protect and validate the views of Pacific peoples (Vaioleti, 2006). Vaioleti (2006) offers the following Pacific protocols that researchers should embrace in the way they conduct work in Pacific communities:

a. Fakaapaapa (respectful, humble and considerate)

b. Angalelei (tolerant, generous, kind, helpful, calm and dignified)

c. Mateuteu (well prepared, hardworking, culturally versed, professional and responsive)

d. Poto he anga (knowing what to do and doing it well, cultured), and

e. Ofa feunga (showing appropriate compassion, empathy, aroha, love for the context).


Bishop, R. (1996). Collaborative research stories: Whakawhanaungatanga. Palmerston North, New Zealand: The Dunmore Press Ltd.

Fredericks, B. (2007). Australian Indigenous visions and voices enacted through research (3rd ed.). World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Journal, (3), 42-49.

Porsanger, J. (2004). An essay about indigenous methodology, Nordlit, 15, 105-120.

Smith, L. T. (2004). Building research capability in the Pacific, for the Pacific and by Pacific peoples. In T. Baba, O. Mahina, N. Williams & U. Nabobo-Baba (Eds.), Researching the Pacific and indigenous peoples (pp. 4-16). Auckland, The University of Auckland: Centre for Pacific Studies.

Smith, L. T. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed Books.

Vaioleti, T. M. (2006). Talanoa research methodology: A developing position on Pacific research. In T. Bruce & R. De Luce (Eds.), Waikato Journal of Education, 12, 21-34.

Contributor: Clark Tuagalu
Further information, contact Clark on – clark@pasifikaresearch.co.nz

Community Research


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