Strengthening policing in the Pacific: Community and police perceptions on the role of police in addressing gender-based violence

Dr Loene Howes1, Dr Danielle Watson2

1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji

Decreasing gender-based violence is now firmly on the agenda of Pacific Island countries. This presentation focuses on Tuvalu, a multi-island Polynesian country. Previous research has documented limited participation of Tuvaluan women in decision-making roles, a degree of community acceptance of domestic violence, and patriarchal systems that result in limited access to justice for women. Drawing from a larger mixed-methods project, this study aimed to obtain Tuvaluan community members’ and police officers’ perceptions of how police can best contribute to addressing domestic violence. Community members (n = 69) and police officers (n = 17) from each island of Tuvalu engaged in interviews. Findings suggest that police officers recognise, and community members are open to, an important place for police in addressing domestic violence.This role is seen to include holding workshops to inform the community of relevant laws. However, participants’ accounts highlight various impediments to effective policing practices. The presentation discusses the nuanced and contextual challenges faced by police in their efforts to curb family violence in Tuvalu. It concludes with implications for practice and further research.


Loene is a lecturer in Criminology in the College of Arts, Law and Education, and a researcher in the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies at the University of Tasmania. Her interdisciplinary and applied research aims to contribute to improved justice by enhancing the effectiveness of communication in the criminal justice process. Her current project explores Australia’s role in strengthening policing in the Pacific region.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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