Ashley Vaotuua | University of Auckland Foundation Kupe Leadership Scholar

Master of Arts

As a Pacific person, storytelling is embedded within my identity. My passion lies in the histories and stories that make up one's identity. An issue that I care deeply about is reclaiming indigenous stories and knowledges that have been inaccurately told as a result of colonisation. These have contributed largely to the oppression of Pacific peoples in both historical and contemporary contexts. Thus, masses of knowledge regarding culture and language which are integral to Pacific identity were lost. Indigenous knowledge has nurtured Pacific peoples through caring for the environment, navigation, sexuality and more. This calls for leadership as indigenous peoples seek to find purpose and meaning in ancestral knowledges that have been lost especially with the push towards decolonisation and so called post-colonial development. As a journalist and researcher, I explore indigenous knowledge and epistemologies but this proves to be challenging in the face of institutional racism and underrepresentation.

Sponsor: University of Auckland Foundation

Mentor: Professor Selina Tusitala-Marsh ONZM FRSNZ, poet and academic, and the New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2017–2019. In 2016, Marsh composed and performed the poem "Unity" for Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day Observance. Her collection, Tightrope, also made the long-list for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Best Book of Poetry 2018. In the 2019 New Year Honours, Marsh was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to poetry, literature and the Pacific community. In 2019, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In August 2020 her book Mophead was the supreme winner at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and also won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and Elsie Locke Award for Non-fiction.