AUT - An Authentic Heart

The message was loud and clear when superstar Hugh Jackman visited AUT’s South Campus earlier this year to launch his new stage show The Man, The Music, The Show and when he performed live with AUT’s Oceanian Voices choir. It takes heart.



“I chose to be here because I saw a 3-minute 43-second video and it was like a bullet to my heart,” Hugh told the audience.


The actor was joined by Keala Settle, who played alongside Jackman in the 2017 film The Greatest Showman and performed numbers such as ‘This is me’ and ‘A Million Dreams’ with the AUT students.


Although the choir had been rehearsing for weeks, the star performance was a complete surprise for the students, who were told shortly before going on stage they were about to meet, and sing with the Hollywood legend.


The decision to announce the New Zealand dates of the tour at AUT’s South Campus was not accidental.


In 2018 a video of Oceanian Voices’ performance of ‘This is Me’ went viral and caught the attention of Hugh and the stage show’s producers.


“This morning I saw the choir warm up and I started to cry. You can’t fake heart and it is my privilege to be here today,” he said.


“This is a special place. When I met the Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor I said ‘Congratulations. You are creating something here that allows people to flourish and be themselves.’”


The launch saw hundreds of media descend upon the South Campus, providing AUT with an important opportunity to talk about the work it does to benefit the area.


AUT and South Auckland


Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is the only university in South Auckland, establishing its Manukau campus in 2010.


AUT is ranked in the top 1.2 per cent of global universities, and in 2018 was ranked number one in New Zealand for research impact.


The students are taught by leaders in their fields. Around 43 per cent of South Aucklanders are under the age of 25 and the area is among the fastest growing population in the country. It also contains the lowest socio-economic communities in the city.


More than one in five of AUT’s 30,000 students and about one-third of students at South Campus now come from areas with the highest deprivation scores. Despite the challenges, these students do what it takes to complete a world-class tertiary education, and AUT works on initiatives to inspire and support them.


For example, the university builds connections with local schools to develop aspiration for higher education through its programme Navigation Station.


It also runs a five-week intensive summer programme called UniPrep that supports students from areas of deprivation and poverty by giving them access to the opportunity of higher-education.


Working in close collaboration with high schools, it targets students who have the potential to succeed at university but whose high school exam results are not a true reflection of their potential.


The UniPrep programme includes formal courses, team and confidence building, leadership and other skills for success. Participants complete a set of challenges - including forming a choir in four hours to sing a song allocated to them.


In 2018 the song was ‘This is Me’ and the video of that performance went viral, catching the attention of Hugh Jackman. The song for 2019 is ‘A Million Dreams’. Both songs were selected because the lyrics are pertinent and powerful to the students.


Navigation Station and UniPrep are just two of a suite of initiatives that AUT delivers in the South Auckland area through its Oceanian Leadership Network.


The idea is to create a network of leaders who are empowered to drive positive change and achieve success for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live.


This article was first published in issue 73 of SPASIFIK Magazine, for more features, columns, and articles to keep you informed and entertained get the latest issue, out now.