Uncommon milestone for ‘Sparrow’

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

05 Apr, 2019

Professor Welby Ings’ film Sparrow, has reached an uncommon milestone among short films.

It has been honoured with its 50th international juried film festival selection at the 51st Fotogramma d’Oro Short Film Festival. The festival will take place in Messina, Italy from 22 – 25 May 2019.

Sparrow has also now accrued 11 international awards.

The film tells the true story of a small boy who believes he can fly. However, his life is overshadowed by the legend of his grandfather who died a hero in World War 2. One night, he discovers the tale that his father so adamantly clings to, is a lie. His grandfather was a gay man who, upon seeing the futility of war, deserted in protest when his lover was shot in the dugouts of Egypt. In unravelling the truth behind what happened, the boy discovers the strength to stand up to the bullies in his world in an unexpected way.

Sparrow teaser trailer

In the next few weeks, Sparrow will show at the following places:

  • 3rd Jaipur Film World Festival, India (April 5-7)
  • 5th International Motion Festival, Cyprus (May 6-9)
  • Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival, Calgary, Canada (May 23)
  • 51st Fotogramma d’Oro Short Film Festival, Messina, Italy. (May 22 – 25)
  • 6th Mind The Indie Film Festival, Plovidv, Bulgaria (June 14)
  • 11th Shanghai PRIDE Film Festival (8-16 June)
  • Quarantine Film Festival Varna, Bulgaria (2-6 July)

Watch Welby discuss his film-making process

Visit the Sparrow website


Measuring the impact of Pacific holidays

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

04 Apr, 2019

Our Pacific neighbours offer tourists idyllic experiences in tropical locales, but inadequate waste management is having a detrimental effect on the environment according to a UN report written by Dr Jeff Seadon from the School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.

Jeff’s latest report for the UN Environment Programme – Small Island Developing States: Waste Management Outlook – investigates waste management in island states across the Atlantic, Indian, Mediterranean Oceans, the South China Sea region and the Carribean, as well as the Pacific.

“Waste management affects all aspects of society such as public health, the economy, industry, environment, climate change and disasters,” Jeff writes in the report.

“Small Island Developing States (SIDS) waste management-related issues are not uncommon within global trends – however their locations and environmental sensitivity often intensify the impacts of waste, creating complicated situations that require innovation, collaboration and regional solutions.”

The report explores the opportunities for improving recycling and reducing illegal disposal – such as how developed island states like New Zealand can offer leadership and expertise in developing local solutions – and the impact of tourism on waste.

“Compared to the average 2.5 kg of waste generated by a local every day, a tourist typically generates more than 7 kg of waste,” Jeff explains.

“Much of the waste is then burnt, buried in illegal landfills or dumped. Roughly 80% of litter ends up in the oceans.”

SIDS Waste Management Outlook presents evidence of the environmental impact of sub-par waste management, and offers proposals for how SIDS can move from “dumping societies” to “circular economies” focused on effective waste management.

“The promotion of resource efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, delivery of basic services to all, and green and suitable jobs will provide a better quality of life for residents,” Jeff writes.

This report is Jeff’s third for the UN Environment Programme. His other publications are Guidelines for Framework Legislation for Integrated Waste Management (sole author) and Asia Waste Management Outlook (one of 3 authors).

The full report, as well as a summary document with key points, is available to download from the UN’s International Environmental Technology Centre website.


Scrutiny of largest pay rise for women

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

28 Mar, 2019

New research by the New Zealand Work Research Institute at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Human Rights Commission has for the first time revealed the challenges and advantages of New Zealand’s largest pay increase for women.

“The Value of Care – evaluating the impact of the 2017 pay equity settlement of the aged residential, home and community and disability sectors” examines the impact of the $2 billion pay equity settlement, which increased pay for 55,000 workers in a female dominated workforce who had largely been paid the minimum wage.

Nearly 70 staff, including both managers and care and support workers, across the aged care, home and community care and disability support sectors spoke to lead researchers Associate Professor Katherine Ravenswood and Dr Julie Douglas about the impact of the pay equity settlement.

“This research is world leading. It is especially rare for a female-dominated sector to receive a large pay rise. Now, for the first time we can understand the impact of paying carers a living wage,” says the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo.

“There are some heart-warming stories of how the pay settlement has dramatically affected workers. One carer told us she was able to buy glasses for the first time while another was able to afford a visit to the dentist. It’s these simple everyday improvements that enhance the quality of life,” says Dr Sumeo.

The research has also revealed pay increases for the sector were welcomed universally by employers and workers as long overdue recognition.

“What this research shows us is this workforce really appreciated the recognition of their work and skills,” says Associate Professor Ravenswood.

“They’d been underpaid and underappreciated for so long. Many had struggled to make ends meet on their low wages. Now they can go to the doctor, have a holiday away from home, and some can even reduce their hours so they can spend time with their own family,” she says.

“The pay equity settlement values their work as it should be and says that these women are an important part of our society”.

Interestingly, the research has uncovered some unintended consequences from the settlement.

“We were dismayed to find that the way the pay equity settlement was implemented means some managers and organisations have reduced employees’ hours. The result is some workers are financially worse off and have less certainty in their work” said Dr Douglas.

“We also found that, in reality, the new financial value of the work wasn’t accepted, and some managers gave more work to their care and support workers, or even delegated nursing tasks to them because they were now paid more” said Associate Professor Ravenswood.

The researchers expect that as the 2017 Pay Equity Settlement continues to be implemented, some of these issues will resolve as people understand previous low wages were caused by gender discrimination, not what the jobs were actually worth. Some policy changes to funding and other requirements under the settlement will also smooth the way for this settlement and any future ones.

“What these issues highlight is that the sector, in both clinical and non-clinical roles is underfunded. I urge the Government to implement the recommendations of the research, including developing a clear and consistent funding model, which fully funds the sector”, says Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo.

The Human Rights Commission, NZ Work Research Institute and Careerforce funded the research.


Architecture for the future at AUT

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

27 Mar, 2019

In 2020 AUT’s new Architecture and Future Environments school will welcome its first students.

Head of school Professor Charles Walker says there is increasing demand around the world for new approaches to architectural education, research and practice.

“We are at a point where we can see fundamental changes in how we live. Climate change, new technologies, social and cultural transformations are occurring at pace, and we need to consider holistically what kind of society, what kind of communities, we want to build.

“If you think, for example, of how the industrial revolution led to radically new ways of living and working, as well as to unprecedented transformations of our natural environments. We saw factories, offices, dense housing, and new political and cultural institutions – schools, hospitals, railway stations, museums, city halls, public parks – but also human and environmental exploitation.”

AUT set out to create an innovative, future-focused and student-centred programme to address what might turn out to be an even more radical shift, and to collectively design our future environments – built, natural, virtual, social, economic – to be in harmony with nature.

Central to the study of Architecture and Future Environments at AUT will be the city itself. Auckland is a city of the South Pacific, and the programme will reflect both the role of mana whenua in designing the future city, and Pasifika understandings of place and environments. Māori design collective Ngā Aho has been heavily involved in developing the ethos of the programme, embedding indigenous environmental knowledge and Te Aranga Māori principles in its processes and outcomes.

“Auckland is a wonderful city with many many challenges,” says Dr Walker. “Housing affordability, transport, migration, cultural diversity, inequality – are all global problems. That allows students, wherever they are from, to experience local, real-world issues, and work hands on with industry and community partners, while also being able to understand the global context. Our graduates will be ready to apply their knowledge at home and around the world.

“That could be looking at new approaches to problem solving, or at sustainable infrastructures, or the environmental impact of artificial intelligence as well designing and detailing new kinds of buildings.”

Dr Walker goes on to say that some ways of working in architecture, engineering and construction have remained static, while society has changed around it.

“The beauty of Architecture and Future Environments at AUT lies in its unique connection to other innovative programmes in engineering, computing and data science, as well as art, design and media studies. While our students can learn from the past, and from existing environments, about good design, they will not be hidebound to what has gone before. Instead, through their knowledge of new materials, design processes and ability to tackle problems in a collaborative, multidisciplinary way, they’ll learn how to lead their industry into the future.”


Social impact for competitive edge

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

Leading figures from the business community came together at an American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and United Way breakfast hosted by AUT Business School last week to discuss corporate philanthropy and social responsibility as a way of delivering improved commercial, social and environmental outcomes.

Attendees heard from a panel of speakers from organisations including the American Consulate, United Way, NZ investment firm Forsyth Barr, global water solutions company Xylem and AUT Head of International Business, Strategy and Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Simon Mowatt.

Simon says businesses which are more responsive to the societies they operate in reap the benefits of better relationships with their customers and staff, such as increased loyalty, innovation, and better staff retention. Employees are interested in being part of an organisation making positive social contributions.

“Companies don’t operate in a vacuum, so the better they serve their stakeholders the better their performance. It seems clear that organisations that take their communities seriously do better, and that can include their financial performance.”

“By developing a positive longer-term holistic approach to the stakeholders they serve, they can better connect with the emerging needs of stakeholders in today’s complex environment. This can include meeting the needs of developing economy markets as well as current customers. Firms who look at problems as opportunities can grow as well as provide positive social impacts.”


Top scholars of 2018 celebrated

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

25 Mar, 2019

AUT’s top Business School scholars of 2018 were honoured at the annual Top Scholars event on 14 March, with the top graduates being recognised for their outstanding achievements.

BEL Dean Kate Kearins congratulated the graduates, saying they epitomised AUT’s ideal of “great graduates”, being well-rounded, inquiring and agile thinkers possessing speciality knowledge, skills and a broad understanding of the challenges in our changing world.

“This was an elite group of roughly 20 of our top graduates out of 1000 in 2018. They stood out in terms of academic achievement, achieving our programmes’ learning goals at a very high level, understanding theory and practice, thinking and communicating well.”

“They’re a diverse group, and as people of diverse nationalities, ethnicities and orientations they bring new ideas and different perspectives to the table. The world is increasingly ready for that – ready to have more women at the board room table and for boards to be more representative of their constituencies in terms of gender and ethnic makeup.”

AUT alumni and guest speaker Mike Jenkins, a 2004 graduate and the CEO and founder of The Instillery (a leading New Zealand cloud service provider), says he was greatly impressed by this year’s graduates.

“I was blown away by the calibre of the youngsters this year. I loved the chance to connect, hear their unique journeys and was stoked to see such a diverse range of talent, far more so than when I graduated. And a number who are already making their mark on industries outside of university.”

After graduating from AUT, Mike worked across the globe including time with Logical, IBM and Cisco but his goal has always been to start his own business. The entrepreneurial ambition was lit back in 2003 when he attended a guest lecture by former Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe while studying at AUT.

Mike’s message to the top scholar graduates was the importance of bravery; being prepared to take unconventional paths.

“New Zealand’s tall poppy syndrome tends to lead to the majority of graduates thinking with blinkers on. However, in 2019 with a buoyant economy entering a government department or significant listed enterprise are not the only options for New Zealand’s top graduating talent.”

“Bravery is never easy but Aotearoa is full of opportunities to have an impact both here at home and on the global stage. There are lots of well-funded startups and incubators within enterprises and government departments who are also hungry for top talent.”

“So before you decide. Spread your wings… be brave, be bold and please, do not settle. You are the cream of the crop.”


Mosque attacks and the law

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

22 Mar, 2019

Khylee Quince and Warren Brookbanks

AUT Law School academics have been commenting in the media about some of the legal issues arising from the attacks on mosques in Christchurch.

Professor Warren Brookbanks spoke to the New Zealand Law Society News about the laying of a single charge against the man accused of killing 50 people worshiping at the Christchurch mosques.

He says it is usually a holding charge to get the accused in custody, while Police strategise about additional charges.

“As to what they do, I can’t really say, as it is such an unprecedented event.”

Law School colleague, Associate Professor Khylee Quince, has commented in a NZ Herald analysis piece on the powers a judge has to curb hate speech during the trial of the man accused of the Christchurch terror attacks.

She also discusses the issue of jury selection and trial location.


Employers impressed with AUT students

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

15 Mar, 2019

Students and graduates poured into the 2019 Business and Economics Career Fair on Monday 11 March, primed to meet as many employers as possible and hear about future career options.

The 40 employers attending talked until they were hoarse to the 600 plus participants, dishing out water bottles, lollies and reusable bags, as well as information and advice. They were delighted with the interactions they had with students.

Fletcher Building Graduate Recruitment Business Partner Rochelle Grant says it was an awesome event. “We were delighted to be part of the AUT Event, the students were all extremely engaging and enthusiastic and came prepared with questions. I’ve also been extremely impressed at how many have reached out since the event through LinkedIn and Facebook which is really good to see. AUT ran a seamless event and we were thrilled with the support from the team.”

Fonterra Recruitment Business Partner/Early Careers James Russell described it as a great event where he spoke to many talented individuals that he hopes he will see applications from when their graduate applications open.

As an employer, James says it is vitally important that we engage with all students to educate and ensure they are aware of all graduate opportunities across the business.

Fonterra regularly attends AUT career fairs and employer presentations and has employed a number of AUT graduates. James says career fairs are a great place for high calibre students to stand out from the crowd and open up doors by presenting themselves in the right way.

“We also see career fairs as a great chance to promote our brand and the programme and a fantastic platform for us, the employers, to target and select specific study areas to ensure we stay ahead and/or compete in the market.”

Kate Kearins, PVC and Dean of Business, Economics & Law at AUT adds our students benefit enormously from the direct contact they have with employers at the Careers Fair, pitching themselves and having their questions answered directly by energetic recruiters.

“Impressions count and we’re proud when our students step forward with confidence. We’re grateful to the great employers who put themselves in front of our students and the career opportunities they are demonstrating to AUT’s great graduates.”

The next career fair event at AUT is the ICT and Engineering Career Fair on Wednesday April 3. For more information, contact Employability Relationship Manager Rachael Marsters at rachael.marsters@aut.ac.nz


AI-DAY Workshop Series at AUT announced

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

14 Mar, 2019

New Zealand’s premier artificial intelligence event is back. AI-DAY brings together International Experts, Industry Leaders, Academics and Local Trailblazers to showcase how prolific advancements in AI are changing the world. Comprised of a conference, workshops as well as a hackfest, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

AUT will again have a presence at AI-DAY. AI-DAY workshops are all held at AUT on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 April. These practical 90-minute sessions are designed for business people across all disciplines. They are not super technical, you don’t have to be a data scientist or developer to attend.

A workshop pass to attend all 8 workshops over two days is just $295pp. That’s $36.80 per workshop.


9-10.30am – Wednesday 3 April, AUT Conference Centre

A practical workshop to help business and technical leaders work together to identify practical business problems within different industries that could be solved with AI. Facilitated by DataInsight.co.nz


11am-12.30pm – Wednesday 3 April, AUT Conference Centre

So you’ve built a Machine Learning Model; What’s next? In this workshop, we share the entire Machine Learning process, of operationalisation and monitoring your model over time.

Trigger model update scenarios or automate the entire pipeline from raw data to ML API.  Learn how to do so with Azure Data Factory, Azure ML Services, AKS and also our new Azure DevOps.


1-2.30pm, Wednesday 3 April, AUT Conference Centre

A hands-on workshop where you will explore four AI techniques to gain an understanding of their practical applications.  This session is suitable for those with no coding or data science experience and will require participants to bring a laptop. Facilitated by Aware Group’s Chief Technology Officer Jourdan Templeton.


3-4.30pm, Wednesday 3 April, AUT Conference Centre

Qrious will showcase its Kiwi Bird Analysis and our work with NZ Cricket. NZ Cricket will be presented by Evan Wilson, Director, Analytics Services. Spark will demo its BOT story and this will be presented by Neill McGowan, Data Enabler and Anshuman Banerjee, Data analytics and Visualisation Chapter Lead – both in the Data and Automation Tribe at Spark.


9-10.30am Thursday 4 April, AUT Conference Centre

Jade’s Head of Digital will take you through this practical exercise that will give you great insights into the nature of creating and onboarding a true digital employee (next gen chatbot)  and demonstrate various AI technologies like NLP, NLG and ML mixed with good old fashion “Digital” at work!



11am-12.30pm Thursday 4 April, AUT Conference Centre

AI means brands can now put ‘digital skin’ on their brand. Chatbots and Digital Assistants/Humans now enable us to embody companies as never before – but their ‘personas’ need to be carefully crafted to create memorable, believable and valuable client experiences.

These are the influencers of the future! FaceMe has created Digital Humans for some of the world’s largest brands. We’ll share some lessons learnt around bringing brands to life in Digital Human form with Brand Strategists Blue Eye Deer weighing in on trends and how to design your brand’s persona to create memorable client experiences.


1-2.30pm Thursday 4 April, AUT Conference Centre


Isuru Fernando, Head of Artificial Intelligence, IBM NZ

Giovanni Vigorelli, Digital and Cloud Innovation Leader, IBM NZ

Gloria Yi, Client Technical Specialist, IBM NZ


3-4.30pm Thursday 4 April, AUT Conference Centre

Dr Mahsa Mohaghegh will Chair a session with three AUT academics currently working in the AI space:

Maryam Doborjeh – Neuromarketing and spiking Neural networks

Nuttanan Wichitaksorn –  Analytics in Action

Dave Parry  –  What sort of human does AI?

For more information on the sessions at AUT and to book tickets, visit the AI Day Workshop Series page on the AI website.


The rise of virtue signaling

Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

12 Mar, 2019

People are often quick to publicly embrace and declare support for socially just and environmentally friendly causes – often with just the click of a social media button. But it’s been touted as slacktivism — boosting egos but changing little.

And for companies, it is a marketing tool.

In an interview with nzherald.co.nz, Dr Jessica Vredenburg, a senior lecturer in marketing at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Business School, says consumers are increasingly making choices based on their beliefs and are looking to engage with brands that exhibit the same beliefs.

“This is especially true for younger, more progressive consumers, who will have increasing marketplace power in coming years.”

Companies engage in brand activism to stand out from competitors, says Vredenburg.

“Brands have historically not engaged in social and political conversations for fear of alienating customers. But this is changing.”