News //

Pacific Fono in the Community

25 June 2021

On the 25th of June, the Maurice Wilkins Centre and National Science Challenges for a Better Start, Healthier Lives and Ageing Well came together in support of the inaugural Pacific People’s Fono – ‘Måür lelei: Health and Wellbeing Together’ convened by MWC Associate Investigator Dr Ofa Dewes. 

A diverse crowd was welcomed at the Fono, held at the beautiful Fale o Samoa in Mangere, which included healthcare professionals, academics and postgraduate students, high school teachers, church and community leaders, and members of the public with an interest in Pacific health.


 MWC was proud to see our Pacific researchers from across the country at the Fono.
Top row L-R: Taito Eddie Tuiavii (event co-host), Ms Lupe Isaia, Ms Sekotilani Aloi, Mr Dougie Atiola, Ms Tumanu Futi, Dr Tamasin Taylor, Mr Chris Puliuvea, Mr Sakiusa Baleivanualala. Bottom row L-R: Ms Zanetta Toomata, Ms Jaye Moors, Dr Ofa Dewes, Moananu Dr Karaponi Okesene-Gafa, Dr Natalie Netzler.


For our talented Pacific early-career researchers, the Fono provided a unique opportunity for them to present their health research to the wider Pacific community. The entertaining and thought-provoking presentations covered a wide range of topics including vaccines, cardiometabolic disease, bariatric surgery, antimicrobial resistance, traditional Pacific medicinal plants, aiga carers and the impact of chronic health conditions on the aiga and whānau. Attendees were encouraged to interact with presenters by asking questions in talanoa panels held at the end of every presentation. A common theme in the presentations was how current research could be used to address health challenges and inequities faced by Pacific Peoples, which was why it was valuable for the Fono to bring together members from the community and organisations experienced in these issues to share ideas.

The presentation topics sparked important discussions and engagement, and for many attendees, it was their first time learning about the research being conducted at our universities to improve health and wellbeing within Pacific communities. “My parents came to see me at the Inaugural Pacific People’s Fono today. I presented on the genetics of cardiometabolic disease, and it was the first time they’ve ever seen me in my academic element” says University of Otago PhD student Jaye Moors. The Fono was a success, paving the way for future engagement. “We look forward to putting our research to work, in service, and in the pursuit of better health and wellbeing outcomes for Pacific Peoples” says Ofa.



The University of Otago's Distinguished Professor
Greg Cook, Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre,
spoke on behalf of the Centre. 


The Honourable Minister Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, Associate Minister of Education (Pacific Peoples) and Associate Minister of Health (Pacific Peoples), recorded a special video message for the Fono from Wellington, as he was unfortunately unable to attend due to the COVID-19 alert levels in Wellington on the day. MWC would like to thank everyone who contributed to making the Fono a success, firstly to lau Afioga Aupito, Honourable Minister, and to all our attendees and presenters, and everyone who contributed behind the scenes to help the day run smoothly. Minister Aupito’s address to the Fono can be viewed here.



undefined Hon. Aupito William Sio


Are you interested in Pacific health research and would like to find out more about similar future events? The presenters featured at this event are interested in bringing together an informal network of Pacific mid- and early-career researchers across the country to offer peer support and mentorship. Get in touch with the MWC admin team at if you would like to know more, or visit the National Science Challenge websites: A Better Start, Healthier Lives and Ageing Well.



 It was great to see a large, diverse crowd of attendees at the Fono