Dr Tūmanako Ngāwhika Fa’aui

Tūmanako Ngāwhika Fa’aui wants his students to gain a greater awareness of Te Ao Māori (The Māori World) and its cultural concepts.

Qualification: BE(Hons) and PhD in Civil Engineering
Role: Lecturer at the University of Auckland

“I didn't realise that postgraduate study can almost be anything you want it be. I think a lot of people tend to see further study as an expansion of their undergraduate programme, but in reality, it’s actually an opportunity to study a topic that interests you. I really liked discovering that there is space for you to do research that you feel is important, be it addressing issues back home, or looking at a problem that affects you personally.”

“My research focused on the impacts of the Rena oil spill in 2011, which I chose as my whānau are from the affected area. I felt more immersed in the research as I was studying something that was real to me, rather than an abstract or theoretical concept. I thought that applying my values and culture directly into research was really cool, and saw this as a way to make a meaningful contribution to something that’s affected my family and people.

“My PhD research was very much tied to working with Māori communities and traditional knowledge, and trying to see where it fits alongside Western engineering. There’s a visible disconnect at times between the human aspects of engineering and its technical side, so it was great to engage with both, and use different methodologies to bridge the gap. At times, I was approaching my work from a more humanities-driven angle, and understanding how important that is to society – and the field of engineering – as a whole.

“As a lecturer, I'm hoping to see our faculty and students gain stronger awareness of, and become more familiar with Te Ao Māori (The Māori World) and our cultural concepts, because it is important to who we are as New Zealanders. There’s an opportunity for us to lead within this space, and prepare our engineers so they are well-rounded and can confidently navigate these cross cultural contexts.”