Graduate Policy Advisor, Community and Social Policy Rōpū, Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland Council
Master of Human Rights
Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences and Conflict Resolution
For Talavao Ngata, her future pathway wasn’t always entirely clear.
“I left high school with no University Entrance and little understanding of what options I had. I was lucky enough to gain special admission into the School of Social Sciences and Public Policy at AUT. I gravitated towards the social sciences because of the focus on understanding society.”
Enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences and Conflict Resolution proved to be just the first step on Talavao’s journey into the social sciences, and she went on to study a Master of Human Rights before joining Auckland Council as a graduate policy advisor in 2020.
“I'm now in my second-year of the policy programme, and by the end of 2021 I’ll have worked across four teams in six-month rotations – Culture & Diversity, Regulatory Practice, Community Investment and Social Wellbeing. The department's main goal is to provide quality policy advice to governing body, committees and local boards. This policy advice goes on to shape Auckland Council's investments in a range of community services, provisions and wider social outcomes.
“I'm really enjoying the variety of work, from comparative research for a bylaw review to child impact assessments to presenting to Council's advisory panels and committees. It's very rewarding working through hands-on analysis that leads to better solutions for local and regional issues. I've also met lots of great people and mentors.”
Encouraging critical thinking
She would highly recommend studying social sciences, Talavao says.
“I would recommend this programme to all students who want to bring innovative thinking to their respective career or research pathways. Whether you’re in the business of accounting, law, marketing or hospitality, I can guarantee the added value of picking up a few social sciences papers.”
The Bachelor of Arts has a unique approach to learning, she adds.
“The three-year programme offers students the opportunity to take full ownership of their education, and this is embodied in the final-year workplace experience.
“Importance is placed on building students’ ability to reflect on theories as well as on the world’s most pressing issues, and to apply this thinking to public policy and practice. This is what makes learning in the social sciences meaningful. Overall, the programme challenges students to think critically about their individual lives, as well as human life and all that this encompasses.”
Advice for other students
Talavao has some great advice for other students.
“My advice to future students is to build community both within and outside the university. Take risks in getting to know others, in speaking up in your classes or in standing for something you believe in.
“I really enjoyed getting to know my peers through group work and the small class sizes. It was challenging but a necessary experience and I made great friends out of it.”