Sacred concept of the vā underpins study

Students at AUT.

New Pacific research from AUT puts the sacred concept of the vā at the heart of its study. 

For pan-Pacific peoples, the vā is generally acknowledged as the relational spaces that bind and unify all people and things. 

Nationwide, more than 500,000 Kiwi adults live with low literacy and numeracy (L/N) skills. Māori and Pacific peoples are strongly over-represented in this cohort. 

Led by AUT’s NZ Work Research Institute, “The expression, experience and transcendence of low-skill in Aotearoa, New Zealand” is a qualitative study that explores the barriers against and enablers to transcending this low skill base. 

The Pacific component of the research aims to understand the reality of what does and doesn’t work for Pacific peoples living with low L/N skills – how they became part of this cohort in the first place, how their lives and livelihoods are affected by low L/N skills, and what kind of pathways could help them improve these skills. 

Dr Betty Ofe-Grant (AUT Business School) leads the Pacific component of the study, which will comprise 150 – 200+ participants recruited from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Focus groups and interviews will be conducted by research assistants of Pacific descent. 

Dr Ofe-Grant says it is vital that participants are “seeing themselves” represented in the small group discussions and interviews, which are also founded on a Pacific framework. 

“For Pacific peoples, the vā underpins all aspects of our lives – yet many Pacific-focused programmes and initiatives fail to incorporate this all-important concept into their approaches or outcomes. We are committed to creating inclusive environments, so our participants feel safe to share their experiences with low L/N skills. Similarly, the way we understand and interpret their responses will be founded in teu le vā, or Pacific methodology and analysis,” says Dr Ofe-Grant.

The impact of low L/N skills has significant economic and social costs nationwide, including increased risk of unemployment and poverty, detrimental effects on physical and mental well-being, and decreased social and political connection.

Dr Ofe-Grant says the research objectives include policy recommendations, effective interventions that align with the OECD focus on skills development, and implementation of a holistic, fresh and integrated response that is mindful of entrenched patterns of social and economic insecurity. 

Dr Betty Ofe-Grant.

• Read about the NZWRI-led study into low literacy and numeracy skills here:

• Read about Betty Ofe-Grant here: