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Overcoming Challenges Pays Off For Pacific Masters Graduate Veronika Ruby Iloilo

Veronika Ruby Iloilo. Photo/Supplied 

Overcoming personal challenges set Masters graduate Veronika Ruby Iloilo on a path to research Pacific people overcoming persecution during the Dawn Raids era.

The Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland Masters graduate wrote her thesis about the performative nature of political apologies. She used examples of previous apologies in New Zealand and Australia, to understand and analyse the Dawn Raids’ political apology - Overstaying or Overpromised: The Dawn Raids Apology and its Impacts on Pacific Peoples.

She applied her undergraduate majors of Criminology and Pacific Studies to an Honours degree dissertation that explored the Utility of Ifoga (forgiveness) as a restorative justice mechanism for Sāmoan communities in New Zealand, before approaching her Masters thesis.

Iloilo (Lotofaga Aleipata, Lelumoega Tuai, Salelologa, Safotu, Falealupo, and Sala’ilua)says as a young secondary student her sights were set firmly on a university education. However, it was not the straightforward path she envisaged. 

“My pathway was not as linear as I thought it was supposed to be. In my last years of high school, my mental health took a huge dip, and I suffered from burnout.”

Unable to secure University Entrance, determination won out for Iloilo. Fresh out of high school eight years ago, she applied for Unibound Summer School at the University to help prepare for the university environment, with plans to later enrol in a foundation programme away from Auckland.

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“After five weeks, I felt connected to the space, the team, and the people. I decided to stay for the Certificate in Academic Preparation foundation program in semester one, with the ability to start my degree the same year in semester two.”

The former Baradene College student said coming from a predominately Pakeha school she was in awe of being immersed within the University’s Pacific community of tauira (students/teachers) as well as professional and academic staff.

Her family travelled from Australia and around Aotearoa for her graduation ceremony on 8 May, she described it as a week filled with laughter, tears, and contentment.

Veronika Ruby Iloilo and her family. Photo/Supplied

“We had all graduated.”

“This journey and this graduation were not mine alone, and I would not have been able to walk the stage and hear my name called with a Master of Arts in Pacific studies if it wasn’t for my community, who were there to celebrate my wins, but also with me during the hard and low times.”

She acknowledged the support of her supervisors, Dr Marcia Leenen-Young (primary) and Dr Lisa Uperesa (secondary).

“Their love and support throughout my postgraduate journey have never gone unnoticed by my family and me. Both are pillars of strength, guiding me to constantly push myself to be my best self.”

Her family especially were a great source of support, encouraging her along what has been an arduous but impressive journey.

“My maternal grandmother, Leitulagilagiā-o-Tumua Masinamua, andmy parents, Toleafoa Savelina Anne Nafanua Mann, and Faleaoa Simanua Emelio Iloilo and sister, Vitalina Leitulagilagia-o-Tumua Iloilo, have always been my biggest motivators and inspirations.

“My grandmother always added me to her morning prayers and checkedin onmy well-being.

“My Dad would take my sister and I on drives throughout my university, where we could sit by the water.

“My mum would come home after working two jobs; would sit with me while I wrote, especially in the last month or send encouragement throughout the day.”

Currently the University’s Programme Lead in Te Tumu Herenga for the Leadership Through Learning team alongside Te Fale Pouāwhina, the Masters graduate is reflecting on the journey taken and her accomplishments.

“During my family’s celebration dinner, my grandmother’s siblings and my family mentioned owning my moments, not taking this massive achievement for granted and forgetting all the hard work done to get here.

“For now, I am taking it all in.I am enjoying the company of my loved ones before they go back home.”

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