Deborah Heke

Deborah Heke

Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Master of Health Science
Bachelor of Health Science in Psychology and Applied Mental Health

Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa

Sometimes she feels like AUT chose her, says PhD student Deborah Heke.

“I’ve spent more of my adult years at AUT than away from it. Apart from the sense that AUT is my ‘academic home’, I appreciate that AUT is a contemporary university and is adaptable to the changing world.”

After completing bachelor's and master’s degrees in health science, as well as a certificate in personal training and fitness instruction, Deborah is now studying a Doctor of Philosophy in Māori health.

“Doctoral study was a natural progression from my previous study. I want to pursue a career in academia and research, and felt that I still had further to go with the research I had already completed. I want to make a significant contribution to the area of Māori health.”

Broadening the understanding of physical activity
For her doctoral research, Deborah is focusing on physical activity and wāhine Māori.

“By identifying key factors aligned with physical activity behaviours in Māori women and linking them with a Māori worldview, this study will help to broaden the understanding of physical activity as a means of engaging with our tupuna, environmental spaces, and continuing whakapapa in a meaningful and mana-enhancing way.

“Although the study will focus on the domain of physical activity, its role in health and wellbeing will be considered from a broader context of whakapapa.”

Deborah’s research is supervised by Dr Isaac Warbrick, the co-director of Taupua Waiora Centre for Māori Health Research, who has already supervised her master’s thesis.

“I have a lot of respect for his work and his ambition for the direction of Māori health research at AUT. I’m lucky to have a supervisor whose research interests sync well with mine.”

An enjoyable journey
Her experiences at AUT have ranged from being a naïve young student with little idea of where she was going to becoming a determined researcher, Deborah says.

“I’ve enjoyed the journey to and from these phases, and all those in between. AUT has supported and inspired each of those phases in a way that keeps me coming back.

“This year, I was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship, and was privileged to work alongside Professor Denise Wilson, who is also the co-supervisor for my thesis, and Dr Heather Came on a studentship research project.”

She would highly recommend postgraduate study in Māori health, Deborah says.

“I’ve enjoyed the range of papers available to me and my interests.  The academic staff have a range of experience and expertise, and have been approachable and supportive.”