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Student Profiles

Dr Betty-Lou Iwikau
Ngāti Raukawa te iwi, Ngāti Ahuru, Ngāti Wewehi, Ngāti Tarukina ngā hapū

Doctor of Philosophy (Indigenous Studies)

Background Summary:

I graduated with my PhD in December 2012. The feeling was one of huge relief and achievement, because this milestone will give direction to my children and my mokos. Earning a PhD was something I needed personally, to show myself and my whānau that it could be done.

Education has been the pathway for me to break free of poverty and all those social issues that we Māori are impacted with. I came out of school at 15 with nothing and worked in factories until I was 28. When I had my second son I went on the DPB. But I got tired of my life – I was a single mother raising two boys on my own, and I was tired of being on the DPB, and tired of having no potential.

So I started adult education classes and three years later was given the opportunity to start working in the alcohol and drug field, supporting Māori men and women with addictions. That led to an opportunity in management, and I began lecturing part-time in social work. I completed a bachelor in Māori Development and a Master of Arts in Māori Development, developing Te Toi O Matariki as my thesis, which was based on a personal growth and development model for alcohol and drug abuse patients.

I became a service manager in Māori health, which gave me a wider perspective of the impacts of poor health on Māori. My doctoral research on Māori and gout was prompted when I realised how prevalent this disease is among our people. My thesis “A Journey for Māori and Gout: Putting Your Best Foot Forward” provided a framework based on a whakapapa paradigm, which I know works in the addiction field. I now want to get this framework out into our communities, where it can hopefully do some good.

I’m contemplating post-doctoral study which will allow me to trial the framework, to analyse the data, review, develop and implement the model. I believe that this framework has the potential for application to any of the diseases that affect our people – for example, diabetes.