Fa'alia Vaeau

Master of Public Health

Coming to AUT as a mature student, Fa’alia Vaeau wanted to help people, so he chose to complete a Diploma in Social Work here at AUT over ten years ago.

Since then, Fa’alia has been working within Community Alcohol and Drug Services in Auckland. Through a number of years over his working career, Fa’alia has continued on with Postgraduate studies, attaining different papers to support the various roles he occupied.

Within his role at as the Clinical Lead of the Pacific team at Whirinaki Child, Family and Youth Mental Health within Counties Manukau District Health Board, Fa’alia saw the effect his team had on Pacific families.

“Face-to-face interaction is really important to Pacific people, and instead of calling over the phone and sending letters, we are getting out and meeting with parents of young people who have been referred to us.”

Within his team, Fa’alia has a cultural advisor who will visit the parents or family of the young person before the clinical team will head out and engage with them and then the family will agree to meet Fa’alia and the clinical team.

“This is an attempt to support families and get to understand the challenges they face and identify ways in which they can be supported.”

“Through my Master of Public Health, I hoped to legitimise the way our team was doing things, in the way of engaging with the families. It gives us an idea on how we can bring about a change in perception, or at least have awareness and acknowledgement of what we are up against.”

Fa’alia interviewed seven first-generation parents of young people who had been referred to their clinical team by other various professionals, to try and find out Pacific people’s perceptions of mental health services.

“AUT is a very encouraging university with a lot of support available to all students.”