Media release: Pasifika communities in Australia report
August 30 2023
Empowering Pasifika communities in Australia: new insights unveiled
In a major stride towards cultural understanding and community empowerment, the Australian Pasifika Educators Network (APEN) reveals a new report delving into Pasifika communities in Australia.
The ‘Pasifika communities in Australia’ report, authored by APEN with researchers from the Centre for Western Sydney, Western Sydney University, leverages data from the 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics census to highlight the contributions and challenges facing Pasifika communities.
Cultural richness and deep-rooted connections
APEN defines those who share genealogical, spiritual, and cultural bonds with the Pacific region—including Aotearoa, New Zealand—Pasifika communities are fostering a unique and vibrant cultural heritage within Australia.
A decade unveiled: Tracing progress and trends
Building upon the groundwork laid by Professor Jioji Ravulo's 2015 ‘Pacific Communities’ report, based on the 2011 census, this reflective analysis traces the trends that have emerged over the last decade. While encompassing various facets of Pasifika life, special attention is centred on education as a cornerstone for advancing Pasifika communities in Australia.
Rising demographics and unyielding resilience
The report spotlights the remarkable surge of Pasifika communities throughout Australia. Currently at 415,033 individuals, this marks an astounding increase of 165,000 since 2011. This burgeoning growth elevates the Pasifika population to comprise 1.6% of Australia's total, a significant surge from their 0.6% representation in 2011. Despite these promising figures, the report also highlights the challenge of lower life expectancy, significantly below the national average of 83 years.
Education: Illuminating pathways
Within the realm of education, the analysis showcases encouraging advancements in Pasifika engagement across early childhood, primary, and secondary levels. Since 2011 there has been a substantial increase in Year 12 or equivalent completion rates. However, the journey to higher education is an ongoing pursuit, with Pasifika individuals predominantly focusing on certificate-level education. These findings demonstrate the importance of Pasifika communities as a key equity group that must be supported through the Australian Universities Accord and the future of Australia’s higher education system.
Economic landscape and workforce dynamics
Navigating economic disparities with resilience, Pasifika individuals in Australia continue to leave an indelible mark. The report underscores persistent wage gaps, where Pasifika communities earn less than their counterparts despite comparable work hours. Dominance in sectors like health care, social assistance, construction, manufacturing, and postal and warehousing is evident. Yet, more ground must be covered in professional, education, training, scientific, and technical domains. The echoes of COVID-19 reverberate in the form of increased government assistance, especially within the unemployed demographic.
Nurturing families and fostering community
Well known for their affinity towards more prominent families, Pasifika communities reflect cultural values in this regard. The report highlights a nuanced shift toward slightly smaller family sizes over the decade, though maintaining a distinct lead over the average Australian household. Communal childcare responsibilities thrive within these extended families, fortifying a sense of unity and mutual support.
Lifestyles and unity in diversity
The report accentuates the proclivity of Pasifika communities toward larger, multi-family residences, a testament to their commitment to communal living and harmony. Notably, Pasifika households comprising eight or more members surpass the general Australian population.
Informing inclusive policies for a harmonious future
Leveraging case studies to underscore the imperative of place-specific insights, the report highlights the Western Sydney region where Pasifika communities make up approximately 25% of Australia’s total Pasifika population. These insights are key to shaping policies attuning to these communities' unique needs and challenges, fostering inclusivity and societal cohesion.
"Education emerges as a beacon of progress for Pasifika individuals, illuminating the path to a brighter future. This is particularly significant in contexts such as Western Sydney, where place-based educational support, and targeted employment opportunities provide key pillars essential for fostering equity where it is most needed.", Dr. Rhonda Itaoui, Director, Centre for Western Sydney (report co-author).
Tofa Amanda Moors-Mailei, co-author and APEN Co-chair/Co-founder, emphasises, “Within the folds of Pasifika families and households lies a profound unity, an embodiment of their resilience. This research resonates beyond culture, guiding policies that nurture strong, diverse communities across the nation."