Monday, October 4, 2010

Tagaloatele speaks to PIMA conference

Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop's opening comments at the PIMA 2010 conference

Kia orana, malo e lelei, fakalofa lahi atu, ni sa bula vinaka, taloha ni, namaste, talofa lava and warm Pacific greetings.

Faafetai Pastor for your well chosen words of blessing for this Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) opening, reminding us of the tremendous responsibilities of the media. You referred to the media as the eyes, the ears and voice of Pacific people. Can I also add that, to me, the media also represents the "heart" of Pacific people? Faafetai.

It is my pleasure and honour to welcome you all to AUT University and the PIMA conference today and to the home of the School of Communication Studies and the Pacific Media Centre, which, as I have been told, saw the birthplace of PIMA almost 10 years ago. A warm welcome, especially to those from overseas - such as our renowned keynote speaker Kalafi Moala – and to others here whom I have only seen "on the news" and /or "in the news". I also welcome the Hon. Hone Harawira, Māori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau. Faafetai for joining us today.

I would like to acknowledge the support to Pacific journalism over the years of Dr Alan Cocker, head of the School of Communication Studies; Dean of Creative Industries Desna Jury; Pacific Media Centre Advisory Board and chair John Utanga; and Associate Professor David Robie – director of the Pacific Media Centre. Also, a huge faafetai to Rosemary Brewer who plays a key role in the Bachelor of Communication Studies degree and continues to offer strong support to our Pacific Students. I also acknowledge the director of the Office of Pacific Advancement, Pauline Winter and the Ministry of Pacific Islands Affairs (MPIA) who are also sponsoring this meeting.

When I was thinking about what to say this morning, I thought about the beautiful "Palagi/Raj" term "jewel in the crown". Since coming to AUT almost a year ago, I have found the School of Communication Studies and the Pacific Media Centre to be one of the brightest jewels in the AUT crown.

This school is one of exciting initiatives, such as today, "outside the box" ideas and people - all of whom are passionate about Pacific journalism - sharing information, and making sure people are informed and "getting things right" and investigative journalism. This commitment is not only to Pacific people, but to the wider public – making sure they are informed about Pacific views and interpretations/ideas/spins on stories.

The planning which has gone into this meeting signifies another step in the development of the Pacific journalism and curriculum. In earlier days, the focus was on how Pacific (issues) were portrayed in the media (if at all) by amount and content and, stereotypes. Today, as seen in the programme, there are new challenges. In a very fine master’s thesis I have just been reading – the writer focussed on some of the challenges Pacific journalists face as they reconcile and negotiate their professional credo of freedom of the press, equity and justice and, their own cultural meanings and values. This student asked, "How can Pacific journalism transform the media"?

Back to childhood
These words took me back to my own childhood, when to me, anything that was written down was truth – as, the Bible, the newspapers, textbooks. I suspect that this is the same for many Pacific people today. What a responsibility this belief places on journalists! I also remember some words from a recently published biography of Queen Salote that, "whatever Queen Salote said was truth". Again, this is food for thought.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about the relationship between AUT and PIMA:

• As noted, AUT and the School of Communication Studies have supported the Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) and its annual conference since the first one in 2001.

• The school has sponsored the two annual AUT/PIMA Pasifica Communication Studies undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships worth more than $10,000 a year since 2002.

• Seventeen Pasifika students have been helped by the scholarship programme and some have made their mark in the media industry today, such as Leilani Momoisea - the first graduate on the programme with a Bachelor of Communication Studies, on Radio New Zealand; Christine Gounder, who completed a masters degree and is also working on Radio New Zealand after working on NiuFM: and John Pulu who is now with Tagata Pasifika on TVNZ.

• Three Pacific scholarship and internship students linked to the PMC have produced research theses on media topics and more are on the way. I referred to one earlier … the author used a mainstream methodology and then applied a Pacific cultural spin to that.

• Cooperation between the school's Pacific Media Centre and PIMA over media development and research projects. One of the founders of PIMA, John Utanga, is now the advisory board chair of PMC.

And the Graduate Diploma in Pacific Journalism course of study, which will take its first intake of students next year is another exciting new AUT initiative. The School of Communications is presently going through the process of appointing a Pasifika journalism lecturer.

To conclude, congratulations to the PIMA executive on attracting this large group of influential, informed, talented and stroppy Pacific journalists to this forum today and, wannabes - such as me. I look forward to hearing about the new organisation, PasiMA.

Manuia le fonotaga – best wishes for the discussions, the ideas that will be shared, and the networks and relationships which will be built.

Malo soifua

Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop speaking at the PIMA conference @ AUT University on 1 October 2010. This is the text of her opening address. Also pictured, MP Hone Harawira. Photo: Del Abcede/PMC

Kalafi Moala's keynote speech
PIMA website

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