Danielle finds her niche in psy­chol­ogy

Coastal News - - Front Page -

Liv­ing up to her name, Danielle Jade Di­a­mond is shin­ing bright in com­mu­nity psy­chol­ogy in the Bay of Plenty.

Of Nga¯ i Tahu, Ka¯ i Tahu and Nga¯ puhi des­cent, and the mid­dle child of five, Danielle al­ways had a sense of want­ing to help peo­ple and she’s had the back­ing of wha¯ nau all the way. Four aun­ties paved the way be­fore, gain­ing de­grees, so it was ex­pected that Danielle would at­tend univer­sity too.

“My grand­mother was a nurse, my aunty a teacher, and my whole wha¯ nau are lovely, car­ing peo­ple so it seemed like a good idea that I help peo­ple for a job.”

The quiet achiever wasn’t sat­is­fied with gain­ing a Bach­e­lor of So­cial Science with Hon­ours, so she went on to com­plete a Master of Ap­plied Psy­chol­ogy and is near­ing com­ple­tion of her Post­grad­u­ate Diploma in the Prac­tice of Psy­chol­ogy. She has just grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Waikato and plans to be reg­is­tered to work as a Com­mu­nity Psy­chol­o­gist next year.

Danielle, who lives in Tau­ranga but still calls Whanga­mata home, ini­tially con­sid­ered clin­i­cal psy­chol­ogy un­til a level two in­dige­nous pa­per with Pro­fes­sor Linda Nikora shifted her focus to com­mu­nity.

“It opened my eyes to an­other set of things to think about — how poli­cies af­fect peo­ple and how not every­one has the same ac­cess to re­sources. Work­ing at a com­mu­nity level can help marginalised and stig­ma­tised peo­ple who aren’t nec­es­sar­ily at the fore­front when poli­cies are made.”

Danielle’s in­ter­est in marginal­i­sa­tion in her own cul­ture was re­flected in her Master’s the­sis. She in­ves­ti­gated the so­cial sup­ports avail­able to Ma¯ ori stu­dents who had failed pa­pers but suc­cess­fully ap­pealed to re-en­ter their course of study at Waikato. Her re­search high­lighted the need for stu­dents to be aware of the with­drawal process and the sup­ports avail­able to them, of which there were many, es­pe­cially when it comes to grounds for com­pas­sion.

Her su­per­vi­sor, Dr Bridgette Mas­ters-awa­tere, ac­knowl­edges the value of Danielle’s re­search.

“Danielle’s the­sis high­lighted how the learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment at ter­tiary level is a com­plex sys­tem to nav­i­gate. The im­por­tance of ad­vo­cacy for Ma¯ ori stu­dents re­mains. Ask­ing for an ex­ten­sion be­cause of cul­tural obli­ga­tions can be a dif­fi­cult task, be­cause: a) stu­dents have to know where the ap­pro­pri­ate forms are, who to sub­mit them, and by when; and b) it can feel like stu­dents have to jus­tify Ma¯ ori cul­tural con­cepts and prac­tices. Danielle’s the­sis found that whakama¯ (feel­ing ashamed) was a huge is­sue for stu­dents, and uni­ver­si­ties have an obli­ga­tion to sup­port stu­dents, who are strug­gling to nav­i­gate the ter­tiary learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

Now in the fi­nal stage of her psy­chol­ogy train­ing, and un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Dr Bridgette Mas­ters-awa­tere & Dr Mohi Rua, Danielle is com­plet­ing her in­tern­ship while em­ployed at Nga¯ ti Rang­inui Iwi. She rel­ishes her role as Project Co­or­di­na­tor on the Mauri Ora project, launched by the iwi last year in part­ner­ship with West­ern Bay of Plenty Pri­mary Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WBPHO).

She co­or­di­nates pro­grammes to im­prove the health and well­be­ing of any­one liv­ing within the Nga¯ ti Rang­inui re­gion and re­cently worked on a project in part­ner­ship with the De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tions and two Nga¯ ti Rang­inui Marae.

“We built two maara kai (raised gar­den beds) for those marae. It’s been a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with peo­ple do­ing com­mu­nity work to help cre­ate a sus­tain­able re­source for the marae to grow and utilise. I’m keen to see what other pos­i­tive things I can achieve in this role.”

This ded­i­cated stu­dent re­ceived sev­eral iwi schol­ar­ships, along with the univer­sity’s Ma¯ ori & Psy­chol­ogy Re­search Unit Grad­u­ate Re­search Schol­ar­ship which eased the fi­nan­cial bur­den of more than 10 years of study.

She’s thrived in the univer­sity en­vi­ron­ment and is grate­ful that Waikato helped her dis­cover her ‘why?’.

“I al­ways knew I wanted to help peo­ple but un­til I dis­cov­ered psy­chol­ogy I didn’t know ex­actly how to do that. It’s an em­pow­er­ing pro­gramme for the peo­ple and the prac­ti­tion­ers. It’s a good fit for me.”

Danielle Di­a­mond plans to com­plete her 10-year study with the Univer­sity of Waikato next year.

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