E Agatonu a Manu'a o Fesili: Investigating the Attitudes of an Auckland Samoan Population Toward the New Zealand Criminal Justice System

Tunufa'i, Laumuaotumua
Webb, Robert
Crothers, Charles
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of Samoans to the New Zealand criminal justice system. This also involved exploring Samoan people’s process of knowledge production and how this shapes their reactions to crime. The researcher’s interest in this topic emanated from working as an interpreter in the New Zealand criminal courts and the recognition that Pacific peoples, of whom Samoan people comprise 49.3% (131,103), are over-represented in violent crime rather than total crime (Families Commission, 2009, pp. 16-17). While the 53 participants for this study from throughout the Auckland region are not representative, especially in terms of randomness, of the total New Zealand Samoan population, they do reflect certain important elements of the Samoan population in Auckland like geographic concentration, employment status, gender, age group and country of birth. The study employed a mixed method approach where a short survey was filled in individually by each participant before personal in-depth individual interviews began. In addition, two focus groups (Appendix B) were organised; one for the older youth group (18 to 25 years of age) and one for the adults group (aged over 25 years). A combination of Pacific and migrant-specific approaches like Fonofale, Talanoa, Fa’afaletui and Kakala, and mainstream methodologies like Grounded Theory and Thematic Analysis, informed the collection and analysis of participants’ ‘shared knowledge’. Theoretically, ideas from cultural criminology, labelling approaches, and general strain theory underpinned this investigation.

Results of the pre-interview survey show very high support for judges, lawyers and police with judges receiving the highest support at 92% which underlines the (somewhat paradoxical) high level of respect Samoans have in relation to the criminal justice system. The thesis presents six key findings that provide deeper understandings of various aspects of Samoan attitudes to crime; 1) prisons are counter-productive to rehabilitation, 2) access to information and knowledge about the criminal justice system is of prime importance, 3) crime is permanent, 4) the notion of family is central, 5) sentencing is too light for rape and murder, and 6) the process of knowledge production for Samoan people is important. Theme number six presents the main argument that the involvement of Samoan people in criminal activities follows the same process of Samoan knowledge production that one takes in order to learn, practise and acquire a faiva – vocation. Albeit negative as it sounds, crime commission is undeniably a faiva. This finding is important in terms of understanding why Samoan people over-represent in violent crime, as well as in terms of the development of any subsequent policies and programmes that are partly informed and underpinned by cultural notions.

Samoan philosophy of justice , Faiva , Reactions to crime , Learning , Pacific-specific methodologies , Samoan knowledge production
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