Weaving the Mat: Enablers for Pasifika Midwifery Students

Talei Jackson
16 March 2021

Jackson, T. (2021). Weaving the Mat: Enablers for Pasifika Midwifery Students. (A thesis submitted in  fulfilment of the degree of Master of Midwifery at Otago Polytechnic) 


Background:  Despite there being a large, and increasing, Pacific birthing population in Aotearoa, Pasifika midwives are a minority within the midwifery workforce.  There are low numbers of Pasifika students entering and completing midwifery education, and consequently an under-representation of Pacific peoples in the midwifery profession.  There is a very real need to attract, educate, and retain greater numbers of Pasifika midwifery students in order to grow the Pacific midwifery workforce.  

Aim:  This study investigates the sources of support for Pasifika midwifery students in Aotearoa that contributed to their academic achievement, enabling them to successfully complete their undergraduate midwifery degree.

Method:  Using a qualitative approach, informed by the Pacific Talanoa Research Methodology (TRM), the sources of support that contributed to Pasifika midwives’ successful completion of their undergraduate degree were investigated.  Talanoa/informal interviews were conducted with 10 participants, who qualified between 2013 and 2019.  Talanoa took place face-to-face, either individually or in small groups.  Interview data were transcribed and coded using thematic analysis.

Findings:  The findings of the research show that family and cultural support was paramount for student success.  Having close connections with the Pacific community was enabling for Pasifika midwifery students.  These connections included the sistership with other Pasifika midwifery students, ‘Aunties’ who offered pastoral and academic support, and Pacific midwifery educators who provided cultural support within the institution.  Pasifika staff offered more personalised support and bridged the gap between Pasifika students and non-Pacific academic staff.  Foundation courses were deemed beneficial for building knowledge and skills prior to undertaking the midwifery degree.  Successful Pasifika students also engaged with learning support services.  Financial support, by way of scholarships and subsidies, relieved some of the significant financial pressure that Pasifika midwifery students faced.

Conclusions:  Pasifika midwifery students are enabled by support from their family, close connections with the Pacific midwifery community, a Pasifika presence at their institution, and financial assistance.  A wrap-around approach is recommended for providing culturally appropriate support for Pasifika midwifery students.  The findings from this research will enable more tailored support for their needs.  A growth in the number of Pasifika midwives will be positive for the midwifery workforce, and the health and wellbeing of all birthing communities in Aotearoa. 

Key words: Pasifika; Pacific; Midwifery Education; Enablers; Qualitative; Talanoa Research Methodology.

Talei Jackson's thesis was supervised by Karen Wakelin and George Parker.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence CC BY-NC 4.0 International.