Natasha Urale-Baker - PhD in Social Work

Having a Master of Social Work background for my PhD helped me to have a better grasp of the research process and view it with a critical eye.

Natasha Urale-Baker
Natasha Urale-Baker

“I started undergraduate study as a mature student nine years ago. Being a professional musician and songwriter all my life, I thought it would be a good challenge.

“I started with the Bachelor of Social Work and then went on to complete the Master of Social Work at this faculty. During my studies, I realised that a PhD would open a door for me to contribute to social work research and discourse from a Pasifika perspective, and influence social policy.

“During my PhD study, I formed very special relationships with my supervisors who showed me that they cared for me, not just as a student, but as a Pasifika person who sometimes finds coping with academic life a real struggle.

“I have also come to appreciate that the knowledge I brought with me as a mature student, especially in regards to my Samoan language and culture, has a place in academia. With this knowledge, I was able to do part-time work, mostly mentoring Pasifika social work students, while studying at University.

“I think social work as an area of study was attractive to me due to its core mission of social justice. Having a Master of Social Work background helped me to have a better grasp of the research process and, more importantly, view it with a critical eye. This enabled me to appreciate that research is never neutral; it has a history of amplifying one way of looking at the world at the cost of marginalising other voices.

“I have a passion for teaching and I have found that being a musician and songwriter is a powerful avenue to reach young people. It would be great if I could lecture at university and be able to advise our young people: ‘O fanau a manu felelei e fafaga i fugalaa’u, o fanau a tagata e fafaga i upu (Young birds are fed with tree blossoms, young children are fed with words)’.”

Natasha Urale-Baker is a PhD in Social Work candidate and Guaranteed Scholarship recipient. Her research looks at songs in  Samoan funerals and what these may tell us about what the current, predominantly young, Samoan culture looks like in New Zealand.