Diamond polishes her skills to better serve the BOP community

24 November 2017

Danielle Jade Diamond plans to complete her ten-year study journey with the University of Waikato next year

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

Of Ngāi Tahu, Kāi Tahu and Ngāpuhi descent, and the middle child of five, Danielle always had a sense of wanting to help people and she’s had the backing of whānau all the way. Four aunties paved the way before her gaining degrees, so it was expected that Danielle would attend university too.

“My grandmother was a nurse, my aunty a teacher, and my whole whānau 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 plans to graduate from the University of Waikato and 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 Māori 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 Māori 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 to by when; and b) it can feel like students have to justify Māori cultural concepts and practices. Danielle's thesis found that whakamā (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 Ngāti 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 Ngāti Ranginui region and recently worked on a project in partnership with the Department of Corrections and two Ngāti 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.”

This dedicated student received several iwi scholarships along with the university’s Māori & Psychology Research Unit Graduate Research Scholarship which eased the financial burden of over ten 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.”

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