Hau'ofa was born to Tongan missionary parents working in Papua New Guinea. At his death, he was a citizen of Fiji, living in Suva. Hau'ofa attended school in Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Fiji. He attended several universities and obtained his Ph.D. in social anthropology from the Australia National University.
Hau'ofa authored several books during his career as a scholar and poet: We are the sea, We are the ocean. Oceania is Us ~ Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us. We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up to this ancient truth and together use it to overturn all hegemonic views that aim ultimately to confine us again, physically and psychologically, in the tiny spaces which we have resisted accepting as our sole appointed place, and from which we have recently liberated ourselves. We must not allow anyone to belittle us again, and take away our freedom.