New Pacific professor ‘humbled, heartened’

Siautu Alefaio. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Siautu Alefaio. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
In these times of "unprecedented crises", psychology is a profession that needs to step up and respond equitably for under-served communities.

So says Dr Siautu Alefaio, who is looking forward to tackling the issues in her new role as the University of Otago’s first Pacific professor of psychology in February.

"We are in a new era marked by compounding and cascading disasters that require all hands on deck," she said.

"I look forward to making a valuable contribution to growing the next generation of psychologists from Otago University that are prepared for these climates of change."

Prof Alefaio said she was "humbled and heartened" by the appointment because it reflected the university’s authentic engagement toward meeting the needs of Pacific peoples and communities at large.

Her research sits at the intersections of Pacific-indigenous and humanitarian psychology in climate and disaster resilience, pioneering a platform for more equitable and just societies.

Her Pacific contribution to psychology has included authoring Pacific-Indigenous Psychology (2022), which has become foundational to the research she undertakes as a Rutherford Discovery Fellow, Health Research Council grant recipient and Fulbright New Zealand Scholar.

Psychology department head Prof Jamin Halberstadt said he was thrilled Prof Alefaio was joining the team.

"Otago psychology has a long and proud history of internationally renowned research, as well as excellence in teaching and clinical training, but our aspirations in the Pacific space have sometimes exceeded our grasp.

"Prof Alefaio will no doubt be a role model and mentor to our growing Pacific and staff cohorts, but she will also contribute to the department and university in a more fundamental way, bringing new ideas, new impacts and new intellectual diversity to our community."