Whitireia Journalism developing a new generation of Pasifika story-tellers

Larissa Toelupe


Whitireia has led and illuminated its communities through quality tertiary education for more than 30 years, and it is now the tertiary institution of choice for over 8000 students.


More than 120 programmes of study are being offered to students in 2017, covering certificate, diploma, degree, postgraduate and master’s levels.


All programmes have been developed in conjunction with industry to offer excellent applied qualifications.


As part of our commitment to providing educational and training pathways for members of local Pacific communities, our Pacific Community Liaison team engage directly with Cook Islands, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan and other Pacific community groups.


Furthermore, our dedicated Pacific Success Advisor provides academic, cultural and pastoral support to Pasifika students once they are enrolled. Programmes and networks have been developed to effectively support and enhance their ongoing success.


Specific student services include careers information and guidance; health and counselling services; sports, recreation and cultural activities; and a number of clubs and societies. Ako Ake Café is a dedicated study space for Māori and Pasifika students, located at our Porirua campus.


A recent example of Pacific student success is Larissa Toelupe, who graduated from Whitireia in July with a Diploma in Radio Journalism.


The parent of two did all of her schooling in Samoa, before coming to New Zealand for her tertiary education.


Larissa studied a Bachelor of Science at Victoria University and went back to Samoa in 2003 to work for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. However, she returned to New Zealand in 2011, hungry to further her studies, and now calls Porirua home.


She says her interest in the Whitireia Journalism programme came as a surprise to no one.


“Communication has always been my forte. I’m not always talkative but I am always open to meaningful conversations. Most of my work for the ministry in Samoa was in the field of communication. I was basically a science communicator,” says Larissa


She still doesn’t necessarily see herself as a journalist, but rather someone who just loves to share stories.


“The best journalism these days uses a more traditional form of story-telling, and I really like that,” says Larissa.


“It’s similar to the oral history tradition of Pasifika people, and that’s why I find the industry so exciting.”


She feels like this gives her an advantage in emerging media channels like podcasting, which her former tutors consider one of her real strengths.


“It’s very similar to radio in that it makes information more accessible for a broader range of people,” says Larissa.


“I have a real affinity to radio as it was the primary means of broadcasting information in my village, Malie, back in Samoa. For my grandmother, who was blind, it was the only way for her to connect with the outside world.”


She notes that journalism is not necessarily a preferred career for Pacific people, compared to, say, being a doctor or a lawyer, or even a professional rugby player.


“I think this is because we are natural storytellers and it is not seen as something you can make a career in, but this is actually something that gives us an advantage.”


“There is also the fact that a lot of the Pacific-focussed news stories they see are very negative and perpetuate stereotypes,” she says.


“There is a trust issue with mainstream media.”


However, Larissa points out that shows like Tagata Pasifika, on which she did an internship as part of her studies, offer an outlet for many of the wonderful and inspiring Pasifika stories out there.


For now, she is using her newly-aquired journalism skills in her work with the Porirua Harbour Community Trust and the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Te Awarua o Porirua Whaitua Committee, communicating the importance of considering environmental factors in local decision making. She has also set up her own podcast series in which she interviews local leaders about issues in the community.

“I just hope that my story, however small and insignificant, can be a light to someone – and that really is the beauty of storytelling.”


Follow Larissa’s shining example and Choose Success – Choose Whitireia. Enrolments for 2017 are open now.


For more information check out www.whitireia.ac.nz or call 0800 944 847 


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