Dr Jonah Tisam left his employment with the Cook Islands Government in 2011 to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Policy at AUT.
Jonah became the first Papua New Guinean to graduate from AUT with a PhD in 2016.
His doctoral thesis is about governance and the New Public Management outcomes in the Cook Islands. After working most of his life with the Government of the Cook Islands, he wanted to look at what is behind a new public management system - whose idea it was, the theories behind this phenomena and where they came from.
Jonah wanted to find out how the people at “grassroots” level of society - the wider village communities felt about the new system and how it affected them.
One of Jonah’s goals for his research was to bring to light some of his findings which may help government and policymakers to make informed decisions.
Through his research, he found many people did not know what the new public management system was, even though it had an impact on their lives and on their island communities.
He found a discord between the world of academia, donor agencies’ discourse and the views expressed by the people in the island communities.
He gave the people of the Cook Islands a voice, and for that was praised by his examiners.
Jonah hopes that through his research, governments in other Pacific Island States would learn from the Cook Islands’ experiences when undertaking public sector reforms.