Retiring Scholar Lupematasila Misatauveve Melani Anae QSO Leaves Powerful Legacy

Published: Wed 21 Feb 2024 05:30 PM
It was a fitting end for the rebellious teenager who became a renowned Pacific scholar influencing a generation of Pacific people to find their agency and fight against racism.
Associate Professor Dr Melani Anae QSO was farewelled at the University of Auckland’s Fale Pasifika after an extraordinary academic career spanning 25 years. Colleagues, former students and members from the Polynesian Panthers showered her with powerful and moving tributes.
They spoke of Dr Anae’s major contribution to the University, sparking not only a new generation of Pacific academics (some now occupying prominent roles across Aotearoa New Zealand and globally) but also her role as a key disrupter with the Polynesian Panthers.
She was just 17 joining the group to protest against the then government’s racist policies in the early 1970s targeting Pacific migrants, largely from Sāmoa and Tonga with the infamous Dawn Raids.
Her considerable contribution to research (resulting in more than 90 published books, articles and commissioned reports), are revolutionary calls which address inequity and racism, challenging the status quo while seeking to empower Pacific people and others toward conscientization; having greater awareness and a deeper understanding of the world they lived in. Referring to Suu Kyi she stated:
“The revolution I am talking about is conscientization of the spirit and the intellectual conviction of the need to change attitudes and values which perpetuate racism and the course of Aotearoa’s development.”
From her own journey as a New Zealand born Sāmoan, emerged her ground breaking research that gave significant distinction between the contemporary and the traditional lived experience of Pacific populations. Documenting the journey of the diaspora through her research saw gains such as the historical Dawn Raid apology by the previous Labour government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Fellow academic Dr Melenaite Taumoefolau spoke of Dr Anae’s powerful legacy: “The Pandanus fruit has fallen but its fragrance lingers in its place.”
There will remain a very tangible and on-going reminder for students, academics and visitors to the University. Dr Anae’s unwavering commitment and drive to hold space for Pacific people resulted in the construction of the Fale Pasifika at the city campus almost 20 years ago. The design of the iconic building won several awards and over the past two decades it has become a beacon and hub hosting important cultural events, while also serving as a monument to realising Pacific aspirations.
Following the tributes Dr Anae rose to thank everyone present: “Well the day has come to write a retirement speech after 25 years of service,” she said looking out to her family, distinguished academics, former politicians and former students (now steadily rising through the ranks in cultural and tertiary institutions) gathered to honour her.
“Now there is a sea of informed and conscientized students/graduates here and out there in the world, what more can I do?” she told them.
In her fight against racism and social injustice, she talked about laying the foundations for Pacific Studies, with her dreams and visions becoming a reality with the Fale Pasifika.
“The dreamers, thinkers, movers, scholars, students and teachers will always be our strength,” she said about redefining what does a Pacific scholar look like, especially in dealing with today’s world – Covid, climate change and rampant racism.
Her portfolio of 90 publications and more were a never-ending revolutionary call to annihilate racism and to educate to liberate. Creating a Pacific focused curriculum with Pacific studies, she emphasized the milestone of creating a safe space and home for Pacific people within the Fale.
She thanked all those present – distinguished guests, her professors, her mentors, her academic colleagues and students. But special thanks went to her family who have always been by her side during her journey at the University of Auckland.
“I will happily retire and exhibit new milestones of success.” Her current positions on several prominent Governance Boards and the legacy of her conscientisation work – the incorporation of her indigenous philosophies, methodologies, pedagogies and activism at the highest levels will augur well for optimal outcomes.
She ended her speech with a rallying call to staff and students present “Keep making milestones. Maintain the passion and zeal to achieve something bigger, better…and totally revolutionary!”
As guests sang and filed through congratulating Dr Anae for such a remarkable contribution to the University and the gains made for Pacific people within Aotearoa and around the world, next door at Waipapa marae a few hundred first year Māori and Pacific students were being welcomed to the University, another generation following in her steps.

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