Engaging our friendliest neighbours : South Pacific Island States

The Widening Participation Unit (WPU) hosted its first LEAP Pasifika meet and greet event this week with current Macquarie University students from Pasifika Backgrounds, academics and professional staff. The Pro Vice-Chancellor Pathways and Programs Professor Sean Brawley welcomed the students at the lunch event, which was attended by approximately 20 students representing many different South Pacific countries, as well as various disciplines of study and stages of study journeys.

Why Pasifika? Many of the world’s ‘Large Ocean States’ – more commonly known as ‘Small Island States’ – neighbour us in the South Pacific Ocean. Our ‘Pasifika’ neighbours are often underrepresented at both international and domestic levels but are growing increasingly more prominent as a collective community, voicing their experiences of world climatic change and its impact on their countries.

Community is key for most people but particularly so for people who share cultural Pasifika and or Maori backgrounds. Community builds a strong sense of belonging and empowers individuals to achieve their highest and best potential. The number of students from South Pacific Island states attending the University is growing. Following evidence-based findings from research involving students from Pasifika and or Maori backgrounds, the Widening Participation Unit has teamed with students to build and vibrant community on campus.

Through LEAP Pasifika students who share   South Pacific Island and or Maori cultural backgrounds will be able to connect and celebrate as a collective community. The aim of LEAP Pasifika is to develop a strong peer network through which Pasifika and or Maori students connect and support each other academically and socially, as well as identify opportunities and needs the   group can access and benefit from.

LEAP Pasifika is timely for many students beginning their higher education journey, as the initiative will grow alongside them and be responsive to their needs. A first year Samoan student exclaimed “I’ve found my people!” after discovering the Pasifika stall at O-Week earlier this month. LEAP Pasifika is a budding community, relevant for all students and academics, who seek connection with a unique cultural community. Many of our students, also new to University, are recipients of the Australian Awards Scholarship for post graduate study, awarded by The Department of Foreign Affairs to students from Pacific Islands.

Of approximately 16 South Pacific Island countries neighbouring Australia, at least seven are represented by LEAP Pasifika students. They include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and our not so small neighbour across the ditch, New Zealand.

If you would like to participate in LEAP Pasifika to connect with students or academics of Pasifika and or Maori cultural backgrounds, please email or call the WPU LEAP Pasifika team (wpu@mq.edu.au  9850 1933).

Join our community to engage and enrich Pasifika student experiences and academic life on campus.

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Posted by Carolina Morison

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