Whānau focus for PhD graduate
11 December 2020
Studying at UC is a family affair for Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll and her two eldest sons. Annabel (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kauwhata, Rangitāne, Ngāti Kahungunu) has balanced lecturing in Māori Health at UC, studying, training as a body builder, and parenting three sons – two of whom are also UC students.
She will graduate on 16 December with a PhD in Health Sciences after spending nine years researching the impact of closed adoption on Māori children born between 1960 and 1976.
The topic is a personal one because Annabel was herself adopted by Pākehā parents as a baby, an experience that shaped the rest of her life, including her role as a mother.
Her son Jacob, 20, is finishing the second year of a Bachelor of Sport Coaching at UC, and Dominic, 19, is finishing his first year at UC studying towards a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Astronomy and Maths.
They, along with her husband Tim and youngest son Zac, will be supporting Annabel at the graduation ceremony as well as a UC Māori Graduation Celebration on 17 December.
“My boys have been on this journey with me right from the beginning, and I hope that in some way it shows them what can be achieved with some patience and dedication to a kaupapa. I think it has also normalised tertiary study for them,” she says.
“I was the first in my family to attend university, and so there was that element of the unknown. I’m happy that, for my boys, tertiary study is not as intimidating. It is much more ‘every day’ and a natural step on from their secondary education.”
Receiving a degree is a proud moment, Annabel says. “It’s recognition of your hard work and achievement. I’m very much looking forward to the procession before the ceremony and enjoying the celebrations with my fellow students.”
Annabel says achieving her doctorate is an important next step because she is already lecturing in Māori Health at UC.
“A PhD was always in my sights, particularly around the topic of adoption. As an adoptee, I wanted to say something about that experience which would change how adoption was practised or thought of.”
It was a privilege to talk to other Māori adoptees about their experiences and to include their stories in her thesis.
She plans to continue her lecturing and adoption research next year. She is involved in a Marsden Fund project focused on adoption and whāngai (adoption within extended family) due to conclude in 2021.
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