John Whitehead


John is in the final year of his PhD, focusing on the use of customary iTaukei reconciliation in cases of sexual violence. He has experience conducting fieldwork in Pacific Island countries, and the use of Indigenous methodologies to decolonise the narrative of justice in these areas. His work includes co-authoring publications on child sexual abuse and sexual violence, providing recommendations for legal reform, while highlighting the importance of culturally contextualised judicial proceedings.

Research Topic

Restorative Justice in the South Pacific: Responding to Sexual Violence in Fiji


Sexual violence is a common occurrence across the globe. Worldwide responses to this offence are currently limited to western and traditional criminal justice paradigms. However, in doing so the customary responses to sexual violence that have historically been used by Indigenous peoples have been marginalised. International organisations note that often these customary practices do not conform to modern human rights standards. This has ostracised many Indigenous groups, who reject the western principle of individualistic human rights. Instead, within countries such as Fiji, individuals are considered to have an obligation to the collective; including the maintenance of harmony with other groups and the land. This principle is locally termed Vanua, and represents the values which iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) communities have held for centuries. However, these ideals conflict with the current adversarial criminal justice responses to sexual violence, which often act to victimise the survivors of these offences. Furthermore, these responses fail to recognise that an appropriate response to sexual violence within Fiji should be contextualized to the local environment and culture.


Dr James Roffee
Professor Sharon Pickering

Research Interests

Serious & Sexual Offending, Restorative Justice, Customary Mediation, Cultural Criminology, Indigenous Research Methodologies