Enhancing cultural competency the Pasifika way

Pasifika leader Peta Karalus (right) is upskilling Wintec educators including Centre for Health and Social Practice academic, Halyn van der Water.

Pasifika leader Peta Karalus (right) is upskilling Wintec educators including Centre for Health and Social Practice academic, Halyn van der Water.


Raising equity and unleashing potential for Pasifika people in education starts with culturally competent educators and K’aute Pasifika and Wintec are working to address this in engaging ways.

Well-known Pasifika leader, and the founder of K’aute Pasifika, Leaupepe Elisapeta (Peta) Karalus says the value of understanding our culturally diverse community is vital.

“Learning about cultural diversity is critical in being able to effectively and respectively work with people from all backgrounds.”

Teaching the educators is all part of the journey for Karalus who engaged Wintec Health and Social Practice, and Sport and Human Performance educators recently in a series of interactive workshops.

“We’re excited to have begun what we believe is an invaluable opportunity and grateful to the participants, their spirit of curiosity and their openness to learning.”

The workshops were delivered by K’aute Pasifika and funded by the Lottery Community Grant funding as part of a joint project with Wintec to foster better cultural understanding by enabling staff to be more responsive to the needs of Pasifika people.

“One of the challenges Pasifika people face in mainstream environments is a lack of understanding or awareness of our worldview, our identity and what is important to us as Pasifika peoples from a diverse range of Pacific islands which span Oceania,” says K’aute Pasifika Chief Executive, Leaupepe Rachel Karalus.

“Being culturally competent, aware, responsive and humble is critical to the successful engagement of people in all contexts, whether you are working with people in the fields of education, health, financial literacy, employment, wellbeing and/or providing social support. We are delighted to support our strategic partner in the delivery of cultural competency courses as this is reflective of one of our key values, being reciprocity.”

Wintec Chief Executive, David Christiansen says that cultural competency in teaching practice and equitable outcomes for Pasifika learners are critically important for Wintec and its diverse Pasifika community.

“Wintec has a strong Pasifika lens on learner outcomes, qualification completion, progression and employment. To achieve this and understand and support our Pasifika learners better, it is important we work reciprocally with our Pasifika community, and our partnership with K’aute Pasifika is invaluable in achieving this.

“Culturally competent teaching practice at Wintec has a two-fold influence; by empowering our teachers, we can improve outcomes for our Pasifika learners by creating appropriate, supportive environments, and we are also enabling all our learners to take their cultural knowledge into the workplace.”

A Wintec partnership with K'aute Pasifika is aiming to improve equity for Pasifika learners

A multi-disciplinary team  from Wintec is working with K’aute Pasifika on a research project to ensure health graduates are culturally competent and can respond to the needs of our Pasifika community through authentic and innovative learning experiences.

Wintec Centre Director, Health and Social Practice, Dr Sharon Brownie says the cultural competency workshops are an outcome from the research project.

“Translating our collaborative K’aute Pasifika/Wintec research to practice is a key step in the delivery of culturally attuned education.  Faculty workshops with direct Pasifika leadership and delivery are an essential step in this direction.”

K’aute Pasifika and Wintec have been partners since 2005, with Wintec providing facilities and IT support for K’aute training, and K’aute students progressing into Wintec programmes via education pathways. Wintec students have completed clinical placements at K’aute Pasifika across a range of health and wellbeing disciplines.

Recently Wintec announced four new health study scholarships for Pasifika learners, named after  K’aute Pasifika founder and Pasifika leader, Leaupepe Elisapeta (Peta) Karalus in recognition of her significant contribution and valued work in the Pasifika community.

The scholarships were developed to encourage more Pasifika people to take up health careers in areas such as nursing, social work, counselling, physiotherapy, midwifery and sport science. The first recipients will be announced in February.

Wintec along with national education body, Te Pūkenga is building strategies to raise equity for Pasifika and Māori learners by forming supportive learning communities.

In 2020, Wintec engaged two Pasifika leads, Colin Tuaa and Rose Marsters who are working to strengthen the Pasifika community at Wintec and raise equity for Pasifika learners.

Read more:
How Norman Tofilau is going from Samoa to Broadway
New health scholarships launched for Pasifika students at Wintec
A plan to grow equity for Pasifika students at Wintec