Awhina Whakarua

'My degree helped me get my current job and I couldn't be happier...'

  • Awhina whakarua

(Ngāti Kahungunu)

Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and Māori and Indigenous Studies

Acquired Brain Injury Facilitator, Queensland, Australia

Even as a child, Awhina would get involved in helping others with special needs. 'I have always enjoyed working with people and have always wanted to help people. When I was at primary school I would volunteer my lunch time to the disabled unit at the school, taking the kids into the playground or playing with the kids in the unit.'

Having graduated with her UC degree, Awhina is now working in Australia for a charity which provides community-based support to people living with mental illness, intellectual disability or acquired brain injury (ABI). Awhina specialises in the latter.

'I help establish individual support plans and goals for clients with an ABI,' she explains. 'This involves working with the family, other stakeholders and the client.'

Awhina says the best thing about the job is 'watching clients make progress and achieve their goals', and in the longer term she hopes to ‘move up the career ladder within the organisation’.

When it came to qualifications, the Human Services programme at UC offered the perfect balance between academic courses, such as Sociology, and professional degrees, such as Social Work.

‘The courses I took in Human Services have helped me with my current job, but taking Māori and Indigenous Studies helped me “find myself”, which has given me more confidence as a Maori student.

'I enjoyed my courses and I had great lecturers and tutors. My degree helped me get my current job and I couldn't be happier.

'Overall, the degree gave me the confidence to go out into the big world and apply the knowledge I had to my job. I have had comments about how professional I am after only six months of being there.'

For Awhina, the relationships that can be built while studying at university remain one of the highlights of her time at UC.

‘I really enjoyed the UC culture. There is so much support there to help you succeed. Everyone is friendly, and you all help each other to get to the end.

‘Study groups are awesome too. Not only do you meet study buddies, but you also make good lifetime friends.’

Awhina says that Māori students should definitely make use of the Whare on campus: ‘You meet great people, have awesome events during the year, and everyone helps each other give the extra push when needed to get you to the finish line.’

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