Gemma Malungahu

Dr Gemma Malungahu


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Pacific health, Pacific research methods and methodologies, Pacific health in the diaspora and in the Pacific region, Tongan culture, language and heritage


Dr Gemma Melvena Malungahu is a Tongan Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA). Her background is in health sciences, public health and qualitative research.

She undertook her undergraduate studies and the majority of her postgraduate studies at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. She completed her PhD in 2020 titled Too little space! Experiences and perspectives of Housing and Housing Policy: Tongan Families with rheumatic fever in South Auckland and Key Housing Informants.

Her research findings supported earlier research that underlines the issues of systemic racism and essentialism that occurs within the socio-political sphere influencing poor decision-making processes. The findings led to the development of a policy framework called the Lolo Na‘ati (nard oil) model to help improve the decision making process addressing the rights of Pacific peoples to adequate housing, thus aiming to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand and the diaspora in general.

In 2019, Dr Malungahu carried out a Tracer study for DPA to explore the career and research trajectory of Pacific Research Colloquium (PRC) alumni who took part in the PRC programme between 2014 and 2018. The overall findings from the study indicated the benefits of the PRC programme in improving research capacity in Moana Oceania.

Dr Gemma Malungahu’s father Kelepi Malungahu is from Kolonga and Ha‘atafu Tongatapu, ‘Ata’atā and her mother Silina Malungahu is from Tungua, Ha‘afeva and Nomuka Ha‘apai, Haveluloto Tongatapu. She has Samoan ancestry on her maternal side, her great grandmother Sina Lauli‘i who migrated to Tonga and married her great grandfather Tevita Mahe in Vava’u in the mid 1930s.


PhD in Health Sciences, MPH (Hons), BHSc, CertHSc


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