The term ‘Pacific’ is often used as a broad descriptor for the peoples and cultures originating from the Pacific islands, a diverse and culturally rich region that includes Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia.

A number of terms are often used interchangeably in New Zealand when talking about Pacific peoples, including Pasefika, Pasifika, Pacifica and Tangata o le Moana. While this provides flexibility and inclusivity, it also presents challenges. For example, there is no ‘c’ in any of the Polynesian languages, however, Pasefika is derived from the
Samoan language and is not recognised as a word in the Niuean or Tongan dictionaries.

It is important that as an organisation we use respectful and inclusive language in order to avoid misrepresentations and uphold the dignity of Pacific peoples, especially when communicating and engaging with Pacific communities.

Principles to follow when talking about or engaging with Pacific communities

  1. Use Pacific as the generic term to describe/refer to a group of Pacific nations.
  2. Use Pacific peoples when referring to multiple population groups.
  3. When talking about or to a small number of specific communities, use the correct Pacific island nation name(s).
  4. Avoid Pasefika or Pasifika if the audience/subject is the general Pacific population.
  5. If one specific Pacific community is the sole audience, use the relevant translation of the word ‘Pacific’. For example, Pasefika for Samoan audiences and Pasifiki for Tongan audiences.
  6. Pacifica is not acceptable to use.