Cel­e­brat­ing 25 years of chang­ing peo­ple’s lives

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By KRIS DANDO

Dr Mar­garet South­wick prefers the term ‘‘25 years’’ to ‘‘ quar­ter of a cen­tury’’. Men­tion­ing the lat­ter re­sults in a steely glare.

Dr South­wick has been in­volved with Whi­tireia’s nurs­ing pro­gramme since even be­fore the polytech­nic – which cel­e­brates its 25th birth­day this year – was es­tab­lished.

Var­i­ous cour­ses held lo­cally were funded through the Welling­ton and Hutt Val­ley poly­tech­nics.

The for­mer tu­tor, who is now the dean of the health fac­ulty, re­calls a first in­take of 45 stu­dents em­bark­ing on a di­ploma in nurs­ing. Classes were held in pre­fabs in the Mana Col­lege grounds, be­fore the pro­gramme moved to Paru­moana St in De­cem­ber 1985, and later to the main cam­pus on Wi­neera Dr.

A lot has changed since the days when a self-cor­rect­ing elec­tronic type­writer was con­sid­ered the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

‘‘It was a chal­leng­ing time,’’ says Dr South­wick. ‘‘We had a real range of peo­ple that first in­take; some were en­rolled nurses, we even had a bank man­ager. There was some neg­a­tiv­ity around the pro­gramme be­ing in Porirua – peo­ple used to say the best thing about Porirua was the road out. Now look at our grad­u­ates.’’

The fac­ulty of health now has over 40 staff and stu­dents un­der its um­brella num­ber in the thou­sands. Grad­u­ates in­clude for­mer Cap­i­tal & Coast District Health Board chief ex­ec­u­tive Mar­got Mains.

What is most im­por­tant to Dr South­wick, how­ever, is the rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lent teach­ing they have forged, es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of Maori and Pa­cific health.

‘‘It’s of concern to ev­ery­one that Maori and Pa­cific are do­ing es­pe­cially bad [in terms of disease and ill-health] and the cour­ses that are avail­able here are en­cour­ag­ing them to make a con­tri­bu­tion to chang­ing those health sta­tis­tics.

‘‘ There are a num­ber of bach­e­lor and di­ploma cour­ses that peo­ple can do and we can stair­case them into fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion.’’

Whi­tireia be­ing able to of­fer de­grees, rather than diplo­mas, from the late 1990s, was ‘‘ very sig­nif­i­cant’’, she says, but the phi­los­o­phy of hav­ing stu­dents spend half their time in class and half in a ‘‘clin­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment’’ has never been al­tered.

Dr South­wick is mod­est about her own achieve­ments, ris­ing from be­ing a tu­tor to a dean, help­ing to set up the Pa­cific health re­search cen­tre at Whi­tireia, and col­lect­ing a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal re­cently for her com­mit­ment to nurs­ing. She is also chair­per­son of the Nurs­ing Coun­cil.

Aside from a part-time stint at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity, her heart be­longs at Whi­tireia and in the Porirua com­mu­nity, where she has lived for 40 years.

Dr South­wick en­joys the chal­lenges she faces in her role.

‘‘There is noth­ing par­tic­u­larly heroic about longevity but I love be­ing here, I’m truly im­mersed. I’m sur­rounded by a lot of long-serv­ing staff and some­thing quite mo­men­tous hap­pens ev­ery so of­ten – if I was do­ing the same thing for 25 years I’d be ready to be locked up.

‘‘The ethos of Whi­tireia is dif­fi­cult to talk about, you have to ex­pe­ri­ence it, but be­fore long you un­der­stand how ed­u­ca­tion has the power to change peo­ple’s lives..’’

Whi­tireia will hold its 25 year cel­e­bra­tions in Novem­ber.

Look­ing for­ward: Dr Mar­garet South­wick has seen plenty of changes in her 25 years at Whi­tireia, even if some of the build­ings – like that be­hind her – re­main the same.

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