A Samoan social worker is to embarking on a research project looking at Pacific sexual health educational resources for New Zealand primary school teachers.
Last December, Dr Analosa Veukiso-Ulugia was announced the recipient of the Pacific Postdoctoral Fellowship for her project called ‘Nesian Narratives – enhancing sexuality education for Pacific communities’.
“I have been involved in the Pacific sexual health space for the last 15 years and that’s through a variety of different roles including a frontline social worker with Pacific youth, a community youth member, sitting on different boards and panels and contributing a Pacific voice to the issues,” she shared.
Familiar with the issues at the front line, Dr Veukiso-Ulugia has worked as a social worker with Oranga Tamariki (Care and Protection and Youth Justice) in Otara, South Auckland and as an adolescent health social worker at the Centre for Youth Health (CFYH).
For the past four years she has been a lecturer at the University’s School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, and she holds a Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Public Policy and a PhD from Massey University.
With the number of hats she has worn, Dr Veukiso-Ulugia is excited to bring her experience and skills to bear on her new project.
“The project is aimed at Pacific children, but the resources will be designed for teachers and at this stage we are looking at the 5-6-year-old age group and then seeing what it could look like if we wanted to extend it to higher age groups like the teenagers as well as the little kids in ECE.
“It’s really supporting existing efforts when we try to encourage our children to grow up healthy, well, confident in who they are and for our Pacific children in terms of acknowledging and celebrating their culture,” she said.
Social work in South Auckland and becoming a parent have empowered Dr Veukiso-Ulugia with the skills to take on the research topic.
“Seeing the issues that our young Pacific people coming through our doors have is what inspired me for this project.
“Pacific children value their families and want to work hard for their parents, but they are also struggling with their relationships for example they might be attracted to someone of the opposite sex, but often the messages are ‘don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend until you’re much older’ and there are very little conversations about how they would relate to others.
“I want this work to look at how do we teach our children to care for themselves and that every single part of themselves is important.”
Dr Veukiso-Ulugia wants her project to build on existing resources already used in schools such as the ‘keeping ourselves safe’ programme and lesson plans for teachers from family planning.
“The feedback I’ve been getting from teachers of Pacific children is that we need more resources that reflect them, so that when the children hear them or see them or interact, they can see themselves,” she said.
Village Collective is a Pacific organisation based in Auckland and is the only Pasifika sexual health company funded by the Ministry of Health in New Zealand.
Operations lead Riki Nofo’akifolau said Dr Veukiso-Ulugia’s research will enable teachers to better support Pasifika children to have conversations around sexuality, in a way that’s culturally safe.
“It’s important that non-Pacific teachers know how to approach and talk to Pacific kids about sexuality education because some cultures have superstitions that tie in with sexual health, so being aware of that will help the teacher better understand why Pacific children say or do certain things and how to then build on what the kids know,” she said.
The project will be hosted by Moana Research, a consultancy group focused on making sure Pacific families can access essential services in their children’s first five years.
Chief Executive Officer Jacinta Fa’alili-Fidow said they will provide support in the way of helping Dr Veukiso-Ulugia understand Pacific cultural frameworks, Pacific values and assisting in her research approaches that she will be applying to her project.
“We will also provide research assistance in the way she talanoa [to talk] for her work as there are a lot of Pacific cultural traditions that she will need to consider,” she said.
Dr Veukiso-Ulugia acknowledges that there is a lot of great work out there that shares the same mission in supporting Pacific communities, but she believes more is required.
“How is it that we can strengthen the existing workforce and provide resources that will help not only our children, but thinking about how can we work with our parents to help go through that process of realising, actually at the end of the day we want your children to not only be safe, but we want them to thrive.” she said.