Hard-Hard-Solid! Life histories of Sāmoans in Bloods Youth Gangs in New Zealand: Key findings and recommendations

Dr Moses Faleolo1

1Massey University, North Shore, New Zealand

Although New Zealand is home to the largest Sāmoan population in the world, there have been few studies of Sāmoan youth gangs in New Zealand. This presentation is based on a PhD study, the only one of its kind, and outlines a summary of key findings and recommendations. The study sought to establish why Sāmoan youth gangs have formed in New Zealand urban centres, and why some young Sāmoan males are  attracted to these gangs. A dual conceptual framework comprised of socialization and delinquency theories was employed to explore how cultural and societal socialization of young Sāmoan males led them to gangs as well as how socialization within gang secures their commitment to high risk and potentially dangerous behavior. Dozens of life histories were collected over an eighteen month period, which showed that gang involvement also produced pro-social outcomes for these Sāmoan young men as well such as maintaining links with their family and churches and ensuring community safety and cultural identity preservation. These life histories revealed gang members’ reasons for both joining and for leaving gangs and the extent to which Sāmoan cultural values and practice shape gang values and practices. Strategies that would make gangs less attractive and save young men from drifting into this subculture are reviewed; some are likely to be more effective than others. It is recommended that a multi-faceted approach is required that would involve key partnerships and managed coordination and a reconceptualization of youth gangs that is part of a Pacific criminological development.


Moses is a NZ-born Sāmoan and his paramount Sāmoan chief title, Gisa, is bestowed on him by the Falelima village, Savai’i Island (Sāmoa); the birthplace of his father’s mother. His father, Mose, carries the title, Leaula, an oratory chief title from Saleaula village, Savai’i Island (Sāmoa); his father’s birthplace. He is an active church members having served as Treasurer for over 40 years before standing down. He retired from being a 12-hour night shift factory machine operator after 38 years. His mother, Pepe, is from the village of Leusoali’i, Upolu Island (Sāmoa), and is also an active church member for over 40 years, an early childhood educator for nearly 20 years, Justice of the Peace, and former Lay Advocate for over 10 years.

Moses practised social work for over 10 years before becoming an academic. He worked with youth offenders and young people with behavioural issues both in government and community organisations.  He is currently an Associate Dean Pacific, a lecturer, a registered social worker and oversees the Bachelor of Social Work program at Massey University (Auckland campus).

His PhD entitled Hard-Hard-Solid: Life histories of Sāmoans in Bloods Youth Gangs in New Zealand is the first of its kind and features 18 months of engagement and interviews and over 200 hours of recordings of this hard-to-reach-population group. He recommends a multi-faceted approach establishing realistic and resource-based alternative pathways to eliminate the attractiveness of youth gang culture. His research interests and publications include unresolved complicated grief, involuntary return migraton, critical pedagogies, cultural valid social work education, youth social work, and life history methodology.

His work has been featured in a range of media forums including national television, international radio stations, and print media. He has presented in Denmark, Vietnam, Sāmoa, Fiji, and Taiwan. He is currently developing an alternative justice theorizing based on Sāmoan traditional jurisprudence, indigenous, decolonization and southern criminologies called, Pacific Criminology.

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