Graduation: A Mother and Daughter Affair



Picture: Debbie Hohaia, Doctor of Philosophy


Picture: Jessica Hohaia-Edwards, PhD Student


“Dad taught me that to be Maori in contemporary society, not only did you have to work hard, usually twice as hard as everyone else, but you also had to believe in yourself more than anything else, particularly when no one else did.”


Debbie Hohaia and daughter Jessica Hohaia-Edwards have much to celebrate. They have both recently graduated, Debbie with a PhD, and Jessica with a Bachelor of Nursing who is also in the current throes of her post-graduate year at Charles Darwin University.


Debbie says her motivation to succeed has been passed down to by her father, and ancestors before him.


“It is this same advice that I would give to other Ngati Maru whanau. If you believe in yourself, especially when all those around you are filled with doubt, then you are already halfway there!”


Debbie has a background in teaching, graduating from Te Whanau o Ako Pai Ki Te Upoko o Te Ika in 1991. She completed various diplomas in management and human resource management in Aotearoa before moving to Australia where she continued to work and study completing a Bachelor of Education (Professional Development) from James Cook University in 2006, a Master of Professional Studies (Aboriginal education) in 2010, and a Diploma of Government from the Department of Defence this year. She has almost completed 15 years’ service in the military, where the title of her thesis is ‘The Potential Benefits to the Australian Defence Force Education Curricula of the Inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge Systems.


Her daughter Jessica is currently working at the Royal Darwin Hospital in the Critical Care unit gaining first-hand experience in a busy regional hospital. She hopes to continue her education in the medical field and is considering further studies in the area of anesthesiology, mid-wifery or perhaps as a general practitioner. “Either way, we are extremely proud of her achievements thus far” says Debbie.


What made Jessica’s graduation extra special was that Debbie graduated that same afternoon. Debbie achieved a Doctor of Philosophy from the School of Indigenous Knowledges and Public Policy, Charles Darwin University.




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