A trailblazing Pasifika academic and now, distinguished alumna

Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop is an expert in a range of Pacific development issues and one of six alumni of Victoria University of Wellington who has been selected as Distinguished Alumni Award winners for 2019, recognising outstanding contributions to fields ranging from business, to youth justice, to space exploration.


The recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Awards 2019 are business leaders Rob Campbell and Whaimutu Dewes; Pasifika academic Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop; sustainable building advocate Pamela Bell; judge, youth justice advocate and co-founder of Wellington’s Circa Theatre Judge Carolyn Henwood; and astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst.

Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith said the award recipients had established themselves as leaders in their respective fields over the course of their careers, and were outstanding examples of what graduates from Victoria University of Wellington could achieve.

“These alumni have achieved at the very highest level and made an immeasurable difference to those around them. In their different ways, each of these award winners have demonstrated the best of our University’s values and the quality of an education from our institution. We are honoured to count them as alumni.”

Tagaloatele Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop (BA 1974, BA(Hons) 1977, MA 1982)

Her expertise spans national sustainable development, gender equality, and youth equity.

An emeritus professor of Pacific Studies at Auckland University of Technology, Professor Fairbairn-Dunlop has had a long career fostering the involvement and achievement of Pasifika students in tertiary institutions. After completing her doctoral studies in Australia, she returned to Victoria University of Wellington, where she had undertaken Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, to become the inaugural director of the Pacific Studies department, Va‘aomanu Pasifika.

As well as supervising numerous graduate students to successful completions, she established the Pacific Postgraduate Talanoa national seminar series. Now into its 12th year, the series has been invaluable not only for the quality of research shared but also for its fostering of a support network for Pasifika students and academics around New Zealand, and for establishing connections with peers across the Pacific and in the United States.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Professor Fairbairn-Dunlop has made major contributions to government and NGO policy affecting the Pasifika community. Her work has been devoted to documenting Pasifika and indigenous knowledge and knowledge-building processes, and looking at how these values, beliefs, and practices might be integrated with decision-making at a local, national, and global level.

She has held posts with the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the United Nations Development Fund in the Pacific. In New Zealand, she has served as chair of the Health Research Council Pacific team and she sits on a number of Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health committees, as well as the social sciences committees of both the Royal Society Te Apārangi and UNESCO. She has served as the national president of PACIFICA Inc—New Zealand’s oldest organisation for Pacific women in New Zealand—and in 2017 she was one of four commissioners appointed to oversee Samoa’s first-ever national inquiry into family violence.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Wellington on 14 November 2019. Tickets are available at www.victoria.ac.nz/distinguished-alumni-awards.