Amanda is the Program Manager for educational access schemes and equity pathways at the University of Technology Sydney, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion. Her team design initiatives, programs and advise policy to expand university access for underrepresented students by actively countering systemic injustices to accessing, participating and succeeding in higher education. Amanda is a fierce advocate for culturally responsive practice, racial justice, and interrogating the dominant narratives that exclude groups of people in the Australian education system.
Amanda Moors-Mailei, Co-Chair
Amanda’s ancestral homeland is Samoa, and she hails from the villages of Lepea, Saleufi, Siumu and Faga & Fagamalo. Born in Poneke (Wellington) Aotearoa, Amanda is mum to Keelin and Taj and, together with her husband Sione, raises them on the land of the Cammeraygal people of the Guringai tribe of the Eora Nation, Australia (Northern Sydney). In her spare time, Amanda can be found on the footy oval sidelines cheering on her 15-year son or hanging out at home with her 18-month-old girl cat Lebron James.
When asked what drives Amanda’s passion for education, “Pacific people!” she shouts proudly. “Our experiences and stories of migration, of (re)settlement, struggle, and/or racism, and the aspirations of my aiga and community are what drive the work I do as an educator. The critical need to write our own narratives. I truly believe in the transformational impact that access and participation in quality education can have on an individual, their family and the wider community.”
For Amanda, the 2021 Pasifika Educators Conference highlighted the interest, need, and gap in professional opportunities for Pasifika educators to connect. “PECA was about not only their experiences but Pasifika learner experiences, engagement, achievement and success in the Australian context”, she says. “I wanted to understand the enablers of Pasifika education excellence in Australia and through a quick ideation activity that drew on educators' experience and ideas of success, it became clear that we needed to act on the themes emerging from this talanoa, and this network is the direct outcome of the conference.”
Equipped with this understanding, Amanda acknowledges the journey ahead: “We know there is a lot of work to do, but I am encouraged and inspired by the energy of our people and their willingness to support and drive the vision.”
Collaborating with the community is also one of Amanda’s overarching goals for APEN: “I hope that we are strengthened in this work through partnering, sharing & learning from and with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island brothers & sisters”, she says. “It's critical for us as Pasifika to be aware, understand, navigate, and nurture space and our proximity to Australian Indigenous peoples with respect and integrity.”
Amanda's advice to Pasifika educators in Australia is to activate their ancestral intelligence and knowledge and be courageous to leverage it in their academic and professional spaces. “Sometimes we compartmentalise who we are, and we leave our cultural identity at the school gate or in the car park before heading to the office. Yet, our ancestral ways of being, doing and knowing are often what is desperately needed to drive social equity and change.”