HPA Internship Experience – Maloti Taufa

My name is Maloti Taufa and I hail from the villages of Kolonga, Kolomotu’a, Ha’apai, and ‘Eua. My background is in science specializing in Psychology with a BSc at the University of Auckland.


I have had the honour for interning for an organisation with a new wave of thinking – Moana Research. I would like to acknowledge the Health Promotion Agency and Moana Research for the incredible opportunity to gain work experience that has helped me as a graduate to put my education and theory into practice, develop leadership skills, and learn from an exceptional team of researchers, biostatisticians, epidemiologists, clinicians, and most of all – innovative advocates who are passionate about the health and wellbeing of our Pasifika communities.


The values of culture, engagement, integrity, and quality that are core to the praxis of Moana Research. This has meant that I have been able to grow in my passion, interest, and competencies of public health, health promotion, and in particular research that is anchored in culturally appropriate and rigorous methodologies.


As a graduate there is a growing need for internships exactly like this that provide a safe space to learn, ask questions, think critically, and engage in a range of projects that contributes to health promotion efforts. For example:  mobilizing the community through whanau voice, translating evidence into a suite of comms that answers the ‘so what does this mean?’, and gathering evidence to inform policy and improve systems that make sense and work for the communities it intends to serve.


From my time at Moana Research, I have seen firsthand what a synergistic top down (policy and governance) and bottom up (community initiatives and needs analysis) looks like. I have learned that research can be real time or near real time to understand what COVID-19 responses by government looks like for people in CIQ. With high quality and rapid research, the experiences and quality of life of whanau in CIQ can be iteratively and proactively enhanced to awhi our families in a safer way. 


I worked on the CIQ project through transcriptions and coding, as well as sound boarding themes. This project amplified whanau voice to share their experience of CIQ. Engaging the primary source is the most potent way to yield data of how our families are faring while they isolate, what has worked, and what essentially needs to be addressed for empowered people to be able to comply.


Given the inequities that persist across SES, housing, education, employment and other social determinants of health, the ability and willingness to self-isolate, when need be, will vary. So, the solutions-focused talanoa sought to understand exactly how our communities can be better supported, what matters the most to them, and what barriers there are to overcome if they are to be willing and able to isolate. This reflects a critical health promotion tool of building healthy public policy by informing the relevant policy teams through research of the implications of various restrictions. Listening to whanau experiences of CIQ also means we can unpack another health promotion strategy such as creating supportive environments for health, and it strengthens community action by listening first to what community have to share.


Moana Research have shown me through this project that as researchers, we have the ability to enable, mediate, and advocate for our whanau through the cogs of policy informed by research, as directed by the central whanau voice. Moana Research have inspired me and reminded me that knowledge is power but must be translated in ways that connect to a range of audiences and decision makers with a clear: “So what?” and “how” otherwise it is just a report collecting dust rather than unleashing real world solutions to real world problems.


I also worked on developing a Journal Repository and collaborated with the team to translate Pacific Data Sovereignty work, whom Moana research are the secretariat for, into publications. It’s so vital that there is a unified voice and collective guardianship and advocacy of data and information about Pacific peoples living in New Zealand. Essentially, nothing is about Pacific peoples without Pacific peoples. This provided insight of the raft of ways that Moana Research are doing research, it is to inform and transform policy and therefore systems, but also to contribute to academia and the growing body of knowledge around data sovereignty. It is research that is engage enough with our communities that we are able to advocate for them in spaces they may have not always felt represented or served such as academia and policy.


This intern was a dream job because of the kindness, warmth, and generosity of mentorship that Moana Research provided. They demonstrate through B-A-U that Research can be fun. Research needs to be authentic if it intends on serving whanau need. Research is most impactful when done collaboratively in a team that complements each other’s expertise and values.


I thank the executive team at Moana Research – in particular Mary Roberts – this intern has equipped me with lifelong friends and learnings to contribute my diversity of thought and a new way of thinking in my future career. I was able to gain entry to Police College and already – everything I am learning, I am thinking of application, the so what? And how to think more critically about learnings.


Malo ‘aupito again to you the Health Promotion Agency and the dream team – Moana Research