Learn about Va'aomanū Pasifika’s history, teaching and learning environment, and the common attributes of its graduates.

Victoria has a proud tradition of research, teaching and learning about the Pacific. Va'aomanū Pasifika is Victoria University of Wellington's Pacific unit and we offer two programmes of study - Samoan Studies and Pacific Studies.

The aim of both programmes is to increase student understanding of Pacific issues and to produce graduates who think critically as well as creatively and will make a contribution to the development of Pasifika communities in New Zealand, the region and internationally.

The study of Samoan language and culture at Victoria opens up opportunities to learn about the heritage and world of Samoans, not only in the traditional sense, but also through study of the changing lives and experiences of Samoans living in New Zealand society and elsewhere. Samoans make up almost 50% of the Pacific Island population in New Zealand and 40% of this group are New Zealand born.

Pacific Studies is an exciting interdisciplinary field that offers critical perspectives on the region's colonial legacy and explores the significant social changes Pacific people are facing today.  There is a wealth of cultural, social and political diversity in the Pacific region that is still to be fully appreciated and understood.  Students study many aspects of social, political and economic life in the Pacific Islands, and in other locations significant to Pacific peoples.

Va'aomanū Pasifika is also the hub for Pacific-focused research and has become Victoria's contact point for government agencies, research commentaries, liaison with our Pacific communities and public forums on Pacific-related issues.


Over the years Victoria has produced a particularly impressive list of alumni who have played pivotal roles in the formation of Pacific Studies internationally, including Professor J.W. Davidson (1938), Professor Ron Crocombe (1957), Professor Albert Wendt (1964) and Dr Terence Wesley-Smith (1979). In addition, significant numbers of Pacific politicians and government leaders, lawyers and sporting representatives, business entrepreneurs, writers and performing artists are Victoria graduates.

Before Va'aomanū Pasifika was set up in 2005, both the Samoan Studies and the Pacific Studies programmes were administered by Te Kawa a Māui - the School of Māori Studies.

Samoan Studies

The Samoan Studies Programme was established in 1989 in response to community requests for tertiary-level study of the Samoan language. Today, Victoria is the only New Zealand university offering Samoan Studies as an undergraduate major in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. While the majority of students in the Samoan Studies courses are Samoan, many students from other cultural backgrounds are enjoying learning and researching the Samoan language.

Pacific Studies

Pacific Studies is an exciting interdisciplinary field that offer critical perspectives on the region's colonial legacy and explores the significant social changes Pacific people are facing today. There is a wealth of cultural, social and political diversity in the Pacific region that is still to be fully appreciated and understood. Students study many aspects of social, political and economic life in the Pacific Islands, and in other locations significant to Pacific peoples.

Founded in 2000, the Pacific Studies programme builds on Victoria University's long tradition of producing leading scholars in the field of Pacific Studies, and capitalises on the institutional and community expertise available in the Wellington region.  The programme foregrounds interdisciplinary, comparative, and indigenous frames for knowledge creation, emphasising a cultural studies approach that pays equal attention to the historial, social, cultural, political and economic contexts of both popular and elite regional developments.  The Pacific Studies Programme offers study at both the undergraduate and graduate level, including a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Arts Honours (BA Hons), the Graduate Diploma in Arts, a Master's by thesis, and a PhD.

Teaching and learning in Va'aomanū Pasifika

Teaching and Learning in Va'aomanū Pasifika features:

  • holistic approaches, reflecting the way Pacific knowledge is constructed
  • the exploration of Pacific concepts and understandings through literature, material and performing arts, written and oral texts and narratives
  • flexibility, enabling students to select their fields of research and study (Our Special Topic courses enable more in-depth study in the lecturers' special research field.)
  • relationship building and knowledge exchanges with other communities as in the Samoan programme mafutaga, the Pacific Studies Akamai, participation in community meetings, research and teaching networks with Te Papa, the Turnbull Library, Archives New Zealand and presentations/information sharing with government agencies, diplomatic posts, local bodies such as Wellington City Council and NGOs
  • the understanding that language is central to culture and cultural understanding as reflected in the Samoan BA requirements and the language requirements for Pacific Studies major in the BA
  • resource building such as in the Tidal Pools website and the compilation of teaching resources by the Samoan Programme
  • exposing students, particularly postgraduates, to national and international forums (both Pacific and mainstream) and supporting students to present at these forums.

Graduate attributes

Samoan Studies graduate attributes

Critical thinking

  • able to appreciate understand the relationship between the language and culture of fa'asamoa
  • able to use skills and knowledge to grow in understanding Samoan society its place in the modern world
  • demonstrates an awareness of the challenges to language and cultural survival in modern diaporic environment
  • able to relate knowledge of fa'asamoa to challenges and provide solutions in cross-cultural arenas.

Creative thinking

  • demonstrate creative ability to apply ideas and knowledge of fa'asamoa to modern settings
  • demonstrate awareness in making creative connections between a Samoan identity and cultural realities within NZ social settings
  • demonstrates an appreciation of the value of Samoan oral traditions such as poetry, music and oral arts such as oratory in modern applications.


  • demonstrate ability to express self competently and confidently in writing and speaking in the Samoan language in a variety of social settings
  • able to use appropriate register of spoken language for appropriate social situations
  • able to apply knowledge of fa'asamoa in making considered responses from a Samoan point of view
  • ability to critique public attitudes and perceptions from a Samoan perspective.


  • ability to negotiate and mediate between family, community and Samoan society at large
  • initiative to conduct and lead in issues of importance affecting Samoan community in relation to wider community in New Zealand and diaspora
  • demonstrate responsibility in taking care of the relationships between Samoan and other New Zealanders - teu le vafealoa'i  (look after the relationships).


They have the ability to make informed decisions that reflect awareness of issues that impact on a smooth and safe transition in New Zealand.

Pacific Studies graduate attributes

Critical thinking

Demonstrates knowledge of the geographic, historical, cultural, social, political and economic diversity and complexity of the Pacific as a region.

Able to analyse and question assumptions and theories that frame representations of the Pacific.

  • able to evaluate the quality and origin of sources of information on the Pacific
  • able to formulate and evaluate research questions that demonstrate an engagement with the broader context of the Pacific region
  • demonstrates an awareness of insider/outsider debates over knowledge in the Pacific and takes care to account for indigenous perspectives when conducting analysis of material.

Creative thinking

  • demonstrates awareness and appreciation of the relevance and value of creative work in enhancing understanding of Pacific societies
  • able to apply, synthesise, and interpret ideas and concepts from research and readings in creative academic projects
  • demonstrates an understanding of multidisciplinary approaches to studying the Pacific and is able to apply and create an interdisciplinary research project.


  • demonstrates familiarity with a selection of key terms and concepts in Pacific languages
  • able to formulate and defend a well-considered point of view on Pacific
  • able to give and accept generous and diplomatic critique.


  • demonstrates a sense of responsibility towards Pacific communities in the islands, in New Zealand and in the world
  • demonstrates confidence and competence in representing Pacific perspectives when contributing to public debates
  • demonstrates a commitment to life-long learning about the Pacific.


The Pacific Studies programme displays particular research strengths in areas of gender; gender and militarism; migration and diaspora; processes of globalisation, cultural continuity and change; Pacific espistemologies and jurisprudence; health; popular culture; and in critiques of the developing field of Pacific Studies itself.

The research of Samoan Studies examines the political, social, and economic contexts shaping Samoan language retention and maintenance; Samoan language teaching and learning; the depth and nuance within the language; and the broader contexts for fa'asamoa in Samoan communities inside and outside of Samoa.