Doctor of Philosophy (Indigenous Studies)
I had studied at Victoria, Waikato and Massey universities and was seriously considering Australia for my PhD when I attended a lecture at the Awanuiārangi campus in Whakatāne.
The lecture was teleconferenced to five global tertiary sites, including Hawaii, Alaska and Canada, and it was that strong international indigenous connection that led me to the doctoral programme at Awanuiārangi. It turned out to be the best institution I have studied with because of the whakawhanaungatanga and support I experienced that helped my doctoral process.
I was very driven, and passionate about achieving a doctorate because I wanted to leave a legacy for my mokopuna. I’m a process person; I like structure – so I approached my PhD like a project manager. I was quite business-minded and methodical in order to complete within my chosen timeframe, and I’d done the groundwork before I began. I came in really well prepared, with my proposal already written, and I hit the ground running. I took 18 months to write my doctorate.
The key was choosing a topic that I knew about. My doctoral research and thesis centred on grief, post-traumatic growth and the narratives of parents bereaved by suicide. There wasn’t any national research on the topic. I was a counselor, academic tutor and social worker at the time, and I had completed my Masters on the topic of suicide. So I had that base knowledge, I was passionate about the subject, and I got smart about my approach – I had to: I worked full time through all of my studies. So I chose my topic carefully, and kept the scope manageable. I did a lot of preparation work, I read a lot, and I had a really good team of friends and associates who knew how to support me. Once I began, I did the long hours – but I felt in control and confident that I could do it, so the journey from start to finish was excellent. My supervisors were very supportive and believed in me. Lastly, I didn't just sit down to write, I wrote to finish.