Pacific Peoples Leadership in the Aotearoa-New Zealand Public Sector
Pacific people have experienced a turbulent introduction to life in New Zealand. The result has seen an over-representation of Pacific people in unemployment, health disparity, crime, and poor education outcomes (Marriott & Sims, 2014). Since the 1980s, Pacific public sector leadership roles have been established to support Pacific people and their communities. These public sector roles are the focus of this study. By strengthening Pacific leaders and leadership in the Aotearoa-New Zealand public sector, Pacific people and their outcomes can be improved.
The aim of my research was to explore the experiences of Pacific leaders in the New Zealand public sector. The methodological approach used for this study was phenomenology which is aimed at illuminating specific experiences and meanings as they are perceived by the interviewees (Hycner, 1985; Lester, 1999; Paea, 2009). Pacific methods, such as Fa’afaletui (Tamasese, 2010) and Talanoa (Vaioleti, 2006), were adopted to best draw out such experiences from the leaders, with attention to the strengths of their leadership.
The study discovered five themes: 1) Negotiation of multi-ethnic Pacific and Western constructs of leadership; 2) Creating safe environments for Pacific public sector leaders; 3) Valuing Pacific leaders as knowledge experts; 4) Access to equal employment opportunities; and 5) Growing Pacific leadership. The themes are located within a cultural metaphor of the Tuiga, a traditional Samoan headdress.
The study offers recommendations for government and public sector agencies to better support Pacific leaders by genuinely integrating Pacific cultural capital within the policy, funding and workforce development areas of the public sector; provide safe environments by addressing racist and discriminatory practices within all levels of the public service with a specific focus on planning and funding, and workforce development units; value the contribution Pacific leaders and staff make to the public sector through promotion, reward and acknowledgement, ensuring Pacific leaders and staff access equal opportunities to develop and be remunerated equally; and build an agency-wide pipeline for future Pacific public workforce to develop into leadership roles.