Tongan indigenous approaches in the prevention and restoration of family violence : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
Listed in 2023 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
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Substantive literature exists on intimate partner violence and the efficacy of various response programmes. There is only limited knowledge of Pacific-indigenous understandings of and responses to violence within the kainga (families). This thesis explores aspects of the inaugural application of the Tongan conceptual framework of Fofola e fala ka e talanoa e kainga (laying out the mat so families can dialogue) as part of the faith-based Kainga Tu’umalie (prosperous families) family violence intervention and prevention programme in Aotearoa New Zealand. The programme is centred around weekend retreats involving Tongan households experiencing family violence. I was culturally immersed in observing, actively engaging in, and evaluating this programme during the retreats that involved 49 Tongan church kainga (families). Additionally, formal talanoa (a Pacific-indigenous way of engaging families in research) were conducted post retreat with seven faith-based community leaders to draw out their depth of cultural knowledge and how it was applied to the development and conduct of the programme. As well as drawing on the evaluative materials, talanoa were conducted with three participating families to further consider their experiences of the programme. Overall, this study found that Tongan indigenous cultural ways infused with faith-based values can be effective, transformational, and restorative for individuals and families experiencing violence. Core findings are encapsulated by three intersecting Tongan-Indigenous cultural concepts of: Ko e makatu’unga mo’ui mo e malohi (a powerful and living platform); Koe kolo malu mo e hufanga (a place of safety & refuge), and Fa’utaha (unity/harmony/peace). These concepts not only represent the interweaving of Christian faith and Tongan indigenous knowledge as symbolised by the Fofola e fala (laying out the mat) framework, but also inform our shared understanding of the intent and impacts of the Kainga Tu’umalie programme. These concepts also enlighten my analysis of the positive impacts of the programme on participating families’ and their commitments to engaging in efforts to transform their everyday interactions to create more harmonious relationships within which they can thrive together. Participant accounts foreground the importance and potential of working with key faith-based and cultural values to address patterns of violence collectively within Tongan kainga (families), and with support from wider community members. This research also speaks to the significance of leveraging collaborative partnerships between community-based agencies and faith-based communities in addressing social issues.  
Tongans, Family relationships, Family violence, Prevention, Services for, Social life and customs, Faith-based human services, New Zealand, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses