The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recently visited the University campus to meet with the Widening Participation Unit, students and academics involved with the University’s Pasifika community.

Jess Carpenter, Assistant Director for the Pacific Strategy Unit, Office of the Pacific, DFAT, attended a lunch hosted by the Widening Participation Unit to discuss the Government’s $1.4Bln Pacific Step-up program, as well as exchange information on initiatives delivered on campus connecting Pasifika students with the academic community.

Macquarie University is the first university beyond ANU to be engaged by the Office of the Pacific. Ms Carpenter was highly complimentary of the University’s LEAP Pasifika and Pasifika Connections initiatives, both of which launched this year to engage students from Pasifika backgrounds with academic, social and cultural connections that aim to enhance their learning journey. Ms Carpenter was also impressed with the University’s long running Pacific Research Stream, headed by Associate Professor Kate Fullagar, which contributes to the Sydney Pacific Studies Network, run by both Macquarie University and The University of Sydney.

The lunch meeting offered both students and academics the opportunity to introduce themselves to the Assistant Director for the Pacific Strategy Unit, and a forum in which to discuss positive and constructive Pasifika perspectives regarding the importance of educational resources for sustainable resilience, the environmental impacts of climate change, the salience of cultural perceptions and the imperative to grow Pacific focused research to support the aims, dialogue and outcomes of the Government’s strategic focus.

Pacific Step-up is the Australian Government’s newly promoted strategic initiative, that seeks to build on the strength of previous Pacific facing activities, to deepen regional ties and reaffirm Australia’s commitment to bilateral engagement, cultural understanding and financial development of Pacific nations.

The Pacific Step-up is being coordinated as a whole of government movement that will require broad, collaborative partnerships with industry, non-government organisations and education providers. Universities, as higher education providers, are seen as critical partners with the capacity to provide prospective Pacific nation students with pathways and transition support that will help build bilateral knowledge flows.

Ms Carpenter warmly welcomed and participated in the discussion, noting points of potential development and scope for further discussion, which she indicated DFAT would like to continue to evolve with the University going forward.

Posted by Carolina Morison

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