Pasifika Collective Well-Being during the COVID-19 Crisis: Samoans and Tongans in Brisbane

Keywords: Australia, Brisbane, collective well-being, COVID-19, Pasifika, Samoans, Tongans, vā


This paper gives insights into the collective ways that Samoans and Tongans living in Brisbane have responded to the changes and uncertainties of the COVID-19 era. As Samoan and Tongan insider researchers, we present observations and dialogue from Samoan and Tongan families that were recorded during March 2020, as part of an inquiry into Pasifika mobilities and well-being in Australia. The response of these cohorts suggests an established resilience and purposed creativity during this global crisis. The social distancing regulations, border closures and travel bans have caused Samoan and Tongan communities in Brisbane to engage more; particularly connecting through digital spaces (vā) of social media and other online communication platforms. Pasifika have responded to the pressures and parameters of a pandemic with innovative ways of nurturing their collective well-being.   

Author Biographies

Ruth (Lute) Faleolo, La Trobe University

Ruth (Lute) Faleolo has a background in both education and social sciences qualitative and quantitative research, having carried out a study towards my Master of Arts in Development Studies (University of Auckland) focused on the changing roles of women in Tonga (1995-1997), and a Master of Education in Adult Education (Massey University) that considered the perspectives of Tongan women in higher education in New Zealand (2011-2012). Born and raised in Auckland, she dedicated 13 years (2003-2015), of her teaching career in social sciences, to her local highschool in Otara, Auckland, New Zealand before moving with her family to Brisbane, in search of new opportunities. Her PhD (University of Queensland) research work (2015-2019) used a comparative,  mixed methods, multi-sited approach that has embraced Pasifika methodology in the unique consideration of Pasifika (Samoan and Tongan) migrants’ well-being, in relation to their trans-Tasman migration between Auckland and Brisbane. Her PhD was supervised by Prof. Paul Memmott and Dr. Kelly Greenop (AERC/IDP research centres); and Prof. Mark Western and Dr. Denise Clague (ISSR/LCC research centres). Her thesis was favourably examined by Prof. Halaevalu Vakalahi (HPU), and Prof. Sa'iliemanu Lilomaiava-Doktor (UH). Soon after the her doctoral degree was conferred in April, 2020, Dr. Faleolo began her postdoctoral research journey at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She is excited to be working alongside a team of renown expert researchers, including lead researchers Assoc.Prof. Katherine Ellinghaus (LTU), and Dr. Rachel Standfield (UM), as part of the ARC Indigenous Mobilities in/through Australia project (2020-2022).

Mr. Dion Enari, Bond University

Dion Enari is an Aotearoa/New Zealand born Samoan and a current PhD candidate in the Faculty of Society and Design, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia. He is the Bond University 2018 '3-Minute Thesis' winner, and holds the High talking chief title Lefaoali’i from Lepa, Samoa. His research areas include Pacific studies, decolonisation, transnationalism and built environment. His village affiliations are: Lepa, Malaela, Safune, Vaiala, Nofoali’i.


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