Cecelia Faumuina Khakh is passionate about people. She is very proud to be a mum and see her two children succeed.
After completing an undergraduate degree in graphic design here at AUT in 1997 (then AIT), Cecelia went into the audio-visual production industry, but found it lacked the interaction with people that she was looking for.
She came back to AUT to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching. She taught graphic design, woodwork and metal work in high schools around Auckland before returning to AUT to continue her study.
Cecelia completed a Master of Philosophy in 2015 that analysed different ways of engaging with Pacific people to benefit their well-being.
She wanted to help New Zealand-born Pacific Islanders in particular, who are caught between two different worlds: their Pacific context and a New Zealand context. She believes more research in this area can benefit their well-being and help to decrease the rise in suicide rates.
Cecelia's research takes the form of a performance-based thesis on Samoan oratory. Through the use of a traditional form of Samoan oratory and Tongan poetry, she aims to reach out to the parents of young Pacific people in hopes of promoting better health outcomes for their children.
“According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health, Pacific communities experience poor health outcomes in New Zealand. As most young Oceanic people are in western education for the first eighteen years of their life where they are expected to succeed, and being able to navigate through their New Zealand and their Oceanic worlds is important to their wellbeing.
“My research considers ‘Asi – the spirit or presence of the unseen – that becomes manifest when young people work together in the creation of contemporary Tongan faiva (performing arts), which consists of sound, poetry and choreography. To explore this process and its transformative effects on performers, my research examines notions of koka’anga (how people work together) and ‘kuo tau e langi (the spirit that bursts forth from faiva).”
Cecelia’s motivation comes from hoping to make a difference to the world so her children can be confident growing up in New Zealand’s urban society.