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Widening Tertiary Participation Program for Pasifika communities

The program aims to encourage aspirations for university study, build capacity of current and future students, and enhance community engagement with higher education


This HEPPP-funded initiative encourages the higher education aspirations of students from Pacific Island backgrounds and facilitates the transition, engagement and retention of current Griffith University Pasifika students (Pasifika in this context is a generic group term used to describe Pacific Island and Maori peoples). The Brisbane-Gold Coast urban conurbation has the largest proportion of Pasifika peoples nationally. The program engages with Pasifika students and families to address the complex legislative, cultural and socioeconomic factors impeding youth engagement and progression with education.

It comprises three intertwined initiatives delivered since 2011:

  • Legacy-Education-Achievement-Dream (LEAD), a tiered outreach program for Years 10–12 students, delivered with four partner low socio-economic schools that have large cohorts of Pasifika students
  • the Pasifika Cultural Graduation, an annual showcase event for Pasifika students and the wider Pasifika community which honours cultural identity, encourages student progression and promotes success, and
  • the Griffith Pasifika Student Association, which provides various activities supporting the transition, engagement and retention of current Griffith University Pasifika students.

These include participatory action learning projects to create ownership, engagement and authentic learning. The active involvement of school and community personnel of Pacific Island heritage is integral, as are Griffith University Pasifika students as positive ‘role models’.

Many young people – largely, New Zealand citizens of Pacific Island heritage – want to pursue higher education but are HECS-ineligible due to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA). This issue appears to affect Griffith University enrolments to a greater extent than any other Australian university, and outcomes from its aspiration and attainment raising work would remain limited if this barrier is not addressed. Consequently a parallel strategy has entailed awareness raising and advocacy with key policy and decision makers.

The program aims to:

  1. encourage aspirations for university study widening tertiary participation
  2. build capacity of current and future students at Griffith University, and
  3. enhance community engagement with higher education.

It is a practical, highly visible and successful demonstration of Griffith University’s commitment to social justice and inclusion, strategic priorities of community engagement, building aspiration, retention and supporting learning, and it aligns with the national widening participation reform agenda.

HEPPP Funding
Griffith University’s Pacific Island Liaison Officer and associated operations have been funded by HEPPP since mid-2011. External grant funds enable the delivery of additional activities.

An evaluation report capturing LEAD program outcomes (2011+) has been prepared, based on qualitative and quantitative data gathered from participants, parents/caregivers and facilitators. This data verifies the positive and sustained impact of this initiative, and includes school data on engagement, achievement and post-school outcomes for Pasifika students. Other outcomes include student action projects, student-led strategies in school-based programs, and the infusion of professional practice and organisational culture in partner schools and at Griffith University.

The Future
Insufficient data to accurately gauge the true impact of the TTTA issue on student aspirations to higher education has led to the development of a LEAD-connected research project to collect this data.

Outreach Access and Support key, with all three circles filled with colour

This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.

Posted 13 February 2014 Posted in General, Indigenous