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‘Cost of Service’ on Pacific people

SAM Pilisi

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — If 'a burden shared is a burden halved', what is the burden of service?

The first of its kind research is exploring 'the cost of service' on Pacific populations.

University of Auckland doctoral candidate researcher Asetoa Sam Pilisi said there is a cultural burden to care for family which can come at the cost of our mental health and wellbeing especially within Pacific communities.

More than 1100 people participated in a survey posing the culturally controversial question: "Is it selfish to look after yourself?"

Pilisi said the act of "service" for Pacific people tended to net cultural credits but is sometimes at the expense of other areas of their life, including personal, physical and mental wellbeing.

"Many of our Pacific people are collective in nature. It is a strength but where are the opportunities perhaps to also look at our personal needs."

"You have to ask the question about how much is too much? What is the actual cost of serving others because that's culturally expected, even at your own expense...you can't give from an empty cup."

Working with a steering committee from the Pacific community, Pilisi was acutely aware of posing a question that struck at the heart of Pacific cultural practice.

Some felt that he was imposing a Western lens on the lived-experiences of the Pacific diaspora.

"We're asking people to stop and take an inward look at ourselves," he said, a practice he acknowledged was outside of Pacific peoples' norms because the focus is on the collective rather than the individual.