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Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni

Associate Professor in Criminology Programme, University of Auckland

Talofa. I am of Samoan and Tongan descent. I hail from the villages of Saoluafata (my birth village), Salani, Iva, Saleaumua and Samusu in Samoa. My maternal family traces roots to Niuatoputapu in Tonga. I am married to Talatau Sinapati Sauni and we are parents to Tineifaualii Naomi Sauni and many whangai (culturally fostered) children. We live in Tamaki Makaurau-Auckland, Aotearoa-New Zealand. I am a social scientist with legal training. My academic research currently focuses on Pacific research and evaluation methodologies, Pacific indigenous jurisprudence and Pacific indigenous criminology. I have co-edited books on Samoan Indigenous religion and knowledge (Whispers & Vanities, 2014, Huia Press; Su'esu'e Manogi, 2018, Huia Press) and on Indigenous women in the Pacific (Bitter Sweet, 2000, Uni of Otago Press).

I have served on a number of community boards and government advisory groups. In particular, I was an inaugural board member of Goshen Mental Health Trust Services, Samoa’s first community-based mental health residential care service, and of the Gaualofa Trust, which specialised in building Samoan indigenous educational resources. I am currently a member of the NZ Peter McKenzie Project committee, a part of the JR McKenzie Trust philanthropy group, and am a board member of the Helen Clark Foundation. In 2019-2020 I served on the expert advisory panel to the NZ Prime Minister’s chief science advisor for the cannabis referendum; on the establishment advisory group for the NZ Criminal Cases Review Commission; and was, co-executive producer for the critically acclaimed and deeply moving New Zealand documentary film “Loimata: the sweetest tears” alongside Dame Gaylene Preston. I am currently on the Auckland Central Police District Commander’s Pacific advisory board, and the NZ Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care’s inaugural research ethics advisory panel. I have a life-long commitment to the Pacific Indigenous academy and to Pacific Indigenous values-led research and evaluation.


  • 2016–present
    Associate Professor in Criminology Programme, School of Social Sciences, University of Auckland
  • 2011–2016
    Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies, Va'aomanu Pasifika Unit, Victoria University of Wellington
  • 2013–2016
    Programme Director of Samoan Studies, Va'aomanu Pasifika Unit, Victoria University of Wellington
  • 2008–2011
    Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Health, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago
  • 2006–2008
    Deputy Director, Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Auckland
  • 2005–2008
    Lecturer in Sociology and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland