Malia Latu

Malia Latu

Communication and Marketing Advisor, Pacific Business Trust
Master of Communication Studies

The importance of education was instilled in her from a very young age, says Malia Latu who came to AUT to complete a Master of Communication Studies, specialising in public relations.

“I always knew that if I studied a bachelor’s degree, I would have to do a master’s degree as well, and in due course a PhD. I did a bachelor’s degree in communication studies at another university and when I looked into my postgraduate study options, I realised that AUT offered the right programme for me and the feedback I heard about AUT was encouraging. I couldn’t imagine spending my time anywhere else but AUT.”

It's a decision she certainly hasn’t regretted.

“My whole experience at AUT made everything easier for me. The lecturers I got to learn from, the students I met along the way and just the overall support they have at AUT is incomparable.

“The biggest highpoint of my time at AUT was being nominated for the Geraldine Lopdell Award at the annual awards ceremony for diversity in communication. The award recognises high-achieving Pacific women in the area of communications. For me, the award highlighted the importance of why I was studying communications and reminded me that, although it can be a lonely journey, there are people who celebrate diversity in the room.”

Pacific women’s experiences with beauty
For her Master of Communication Studies research, Malia focused on a topic close to her own heart; the communication of beauty ideals, particularly the experiences of Pacific women in contemporary society.

“The representation of beauty continues to shift according to changes influenced by mainstream media and the way in which women of colour experience the discourses of dominant beauty and identity is rarely studied. Media platforms are a part of a system of meaning-making that contributes to represented identity and societal notions of beauty ideals. Women in particular have been subjected to scrutiny of their physical appearance via Western ideologies of beauty, perpetuating the challenges for women of colour to achieve favourable social standards in contemporary society. The ideological function of beauty perpetuates the idea that to look beautiful is to achieve social acceptance. Failing to look beautiful, withholds the social value that is placed on being beautiful.

“As a young girl, I grew up in a contemporary society where beauty was everywhere. You see it on TV, in magazines, on social media, friends, family, school and everywhere. I was really interested in the concept but it is so broad and I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it for my research. Then I had a chat with a lecturer and he said, ‘You can look at the experiences of Pacific women’ and that was enough for me to work on the idea. I narrowed it down to focus on Pacific Island women and, as a Pacific woman myself, I couldn’t imagine the angle of my research being anything else. It was perfect.”

As passionate as she is about her research, she admits that a personal tragedy put immense pressure on her studies and she is grateful for the support of her supervisor, Dr Rufus McEwan, to get her through this.

“I was going through some really hard times due to a death in my family, and I struggled to get back on my feet. It got to the point where I felt I needed to withdraw from the course. My supervisor recommended that I take a leave of absence but even after six months I still felt that I should withdraw. He said to me, ‘If you can’t do it for yourself, would you do it for her?’ – and that was a lightbulb moment. That alone lifted a whole lot of weight off my shoulder. I wouldn’t be where I am today academically if it wasn’t for those exact words!”

An enjoyable communications career
After completing her studies in 2021, Malia now enjoys working as a communication and marketing advisor for the Pacific Business Trust, an economic government agency that provides business support for Pacific businesses in New Zealand.

“In my role now, I’m responsible for creating content in support of Pacific Business Trust’s communication strategy, working with key stakeholders to ideate content ideas in line with communication goals. I strategise ideas for marketing campaigns in support of brand initiatives. I also support and evaluate results of communication campaigns, and help arrange and coordinate press conferences and other events.”

It's a role she thoroughly enjoys.

“I enjoy the environment I work in, the people I work with, the role itself and the responsibilities that come with the job. I enjoy learning so many different things, especially the business focus of the job. It’s inspiring, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to see how the rest of this year will go.”