From PNG to PhD

5 May 2017

Sangion Tiu for web

Dr Sangion Tiu from Papua New Guinea, the first recipient of the University of Waikato’s Zena Daysh Doctoral Fellowship for Sustainability, has graduated with her PhD.

Dr Sangion Tiu is helping give indigenous Papua New Guineans a say in their country’s environmental policy making. She flew in from Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Tuesday with her husband Samson and Uncle Manasuwe to graduate with a PhD from the University of Waikato.

Sangion’s studies began when she noticed a gap in policymaking for existing ecological knowledge in PNG. Her thesis ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Sustainable Resource Management in Papua New Guinea: The Role of Education and Implications for Policy’ shows the benefits traditional indigenous knowledge can have for education and sustainable resource management.

She was awarded the inaugural Zena Daysh Doctoral Fellowship in Sustainability in 2013 to help fund her doctoral research and that research is already influencing policymaking in Papua New Guinea, notably for protected area policy. In her role as General Manager at the Research Conservation Foundation of Papua New Guinea, she is applying what she has learnt to protect PNG’s flora and fauna and, in the process, empowering indigenous communities by using their knowledge.

Being away from family and studying in a foreign country was a big sacrifice for Sangion. She left her husband back in PNG to work and moved to New Zealand with her son Emmanuel. She says receiving the Zena Daysh fellowship was a big help, allowing her to focus on study rather than facing the burden of paying for tuition and living expenses. She says funding isn’t that easy to come by for research like hers. “If I hadn’t received the scholarship, I would have been busy looking for jobs.”

Putting theory into practice is important to Sangion. She frequently contributes to the Mahunauka Women’s Group of Vanima Village in Goroka, PNG. With assistance from Norm Stannard, an academic and long-time friend and colleague of Zena Daysh, Sangion secured funding to provide literacy packs to the women’s group to improve their use of the Alelcano language, keeping it alive for future generations.

Sangion is grateful for the support provided by the Zena Daysh fellowship and hopes that the next recipient is “someone who has a passion for the people, the communities and for improving their livelihoods. Someone who can practically make an impact and who will connect with real people – just like Zena Daysh.”