Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop was appointed a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit at an investiture ceremony at Government House last week.
Professor Fairbairn-Dunlop was formally recognised for her services to education and the Pacific community at a ceremony hosted by Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae in Wellington – a location that holds special significance for the Professor of Pacific Studies.
“It was to Wellington that our parents Emele Moa Teo and James Fairbairn migrated to in the 1940s, travelling from Samoa to secure a better education and future for their children,” she says.
Professor Fairbairn-Dunlop has applied this same goal in the course of her career, striving to facilitate education opportunities for the Pacific community.
A former primary teacher and teachers’ college lecturer, she has balanced her work as an educator with an active research career, investigating and publishing on Pacific development issues for over 30 years. Assessing the appropriateness of global policy and practice for Pacific peoples has been a major focus of her research efforts, in particular as they relate to issues of sustainable development, family systems and security, and gender and youth equity. Her expertise on issues affecting Pacific communities has seen her hold multiple United Nations posts.
“To me, this award stands for the growing understanding that there are many paths to learning and to achieving excellence,” she says.
“It confirms that New Zealand recognises the place of Pacific knowledge and practice in educational thinking. It’s a huge leap forward, and fits with the country’s cultural diversity and goal of equity.”
She praises the work of the many others who have contributed to these advances, and to those who have supported her work. “Our Pacific teachers and writers, and others in the education field are working hard to document Pacific knowledge and how it can be applied in classroom practices. Malo lava – this is not an easy task especially in times of economic cutbacks.”
“I also thank Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack and my other colleagues at AUT for their continuing drive to enhance Pacific studies and fly the Pacific flag. Moreover I pay tribute to my family and to all the other Pacific parents who make so many sacrifices to support their children’s education.”
Professor Fairbairn-Dunlop is now focussed on increasing the level of Pacific people with post-graduate qualifications. “My aim is to educate students who can earn their place at top-level decision making tables, and sit with just as much confidence in these forums as at the village fono.”