NZ based Niuean academics, Dr. Jess Pasisi and Rennie Atfield-Douglas deliver their work to Taoga Niue

Dr. Jess Pasisi is a lecturer of Pacific Studies at Otago University and Rennie Atfield-Douglas is Assistant Pro-Chancellor Pasifika at The University of Auckland deliver their works to Taoga Niue

The majority of Niueans live outside of Niue with the majority more than 30 thousand living in New Zealand including a small but growing group of academics like Dr. Jess Pasisi and Rennie Atfield-Douglas.

Dr Jessica Pasisi hails from the villages of Mutalau and Hikutavake is a lecturer of Pacific Studies at the University of Otago and Rennie Atfield-Douglas, from the villages of Avatele and Hakupu is the Deputy Pro-Chancellor Pacific for University of Auckland.

Earlier this week at the Taoga Niue Auditorium Dr. Jess Pasisi presented the findings of her doctorate research and Rennie Atfield-Douglas spoke about his Masters dissertation and depositing their work with Taoga Niue.

The works will contribute to the small but growing collection of research conducted by Niueans and about Niue. 

Dr. Jess Pasisi explained that this trip is part of the agreement she had with Taoga Niue when she completed her PhD thesis on Niue women’s perspectives on climate change that she will return to Niue to present it and deposit the thesis with Taoga Niue.

For this work, Pasisi spent time on the island talking with Niue women about the environment and the changing climate. She also introduced the Hiapo methodology “The Hiapo methodology worked as a framework so I can centre at all times the Niue way of thinking, and being and living here and what that actually means in a research project and what that can look like in a written piece of research”.

Dr. Jess Pasisi dedicated her doctorate thesis to her family, her grandmother Lela Sialemata, saying she never met her grandmother but she was the inspiration for this work. She said that she was fortunate enough to have a hiapo piece gifted by Niue artist Cora-allan Lafaiki-Twiss which was also gifted along with her thesis to Taoga Niue.

Dr. Jess Pasisi during the presentation of her Doctorate thesis wrapped in a hiapo piece by Niue artist Cora-allan Lafaiki-Twiss for Taoga Niue.

Rennie Atfield-Douglas’s thought provoking Honours dissertation is about Niue’s decision of self-government in free association with New Zealand, covering the period from 1954 to 1974 and bound to contribute towards the national conversation as we approach the 50th anniversary of this relationship with New Zealand.

Rennie told BCN News why he decided to delve into this topic as a New Zealand born Niuean.

“I wanted to look at why Niue chose self-government in free association with New Zealand and I guess some of the reasoning behind that is that we have a large number of Niue people living in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I always wondered growing up how did this come about and why are we as Niue people in the diaspora living here (NZ)?I also think that in terms of the research that I’ve done on this topic is that it’s really timely in terms of ‘what are the steps moving forward?’

Atfield-Douglas said that as we approach the 50 years of this self-government arrangement with New Zealand it’s timely to pose questions “What does this mean for Niue people living here but also for Niue people living overseas because there’s a large number of us living overseas. How do we keep moving forward and what does that look like?”

Both Dr. Jess Pasisi and Rennie Atfield-Douglas shared their passion in encouraging more Niueans for academic research on Niue because there is not enough reference literature of Niuean origin for new research. They speak about opportunities for more research led by Niueans and providing the Niue perspective using those opportunities provided in New Zealand. 

“I just like to encourage anyone who is interested in these things to explore, explore these discussions, because for a long time I used to ask why is there no resource about that? Often if you’re asking that question it’s because it means you’re the one who’s meant to find the answer,” said Rennie Atfield-Douglas.

He said to take the leap of faith as he found it quite nerve wracking exploring this topic about Niue because he has never lived in Niue. He asked himself “Do I have the right to critique or do I have the right to look at these things? But I encourage anyone to explore these things”. Rennie is the youngest of the late Rennie Douglas and Nora Douglas’ children.

Rennie was invited to join this trip by Dr. Pasisi who also brought along a group of NZ based Niueans as part of a new research work she is currently working on as “part of a Health New Zealand Council funded project looking at Niue happiness looking specifically at mental health and well-being”.

The full interview with Dr. Pasisi and Atfield-Douglas will be on Radio Sunshine tomorrow Friday 16th June News of the Week programme starting at 11am local time.

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