Rising sea levels lead to a new nursing graduate

The threat of climate change in the Pacific led one whānau to move to Aotearoa and join the Pacific health workforce. Now their daughter has graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing.

MAPAS graduate, Avaee Tautu (centre) with her parents.
MAPAS graduate, Avaee Tautu (centre) with her parents.

Avaee Melody Tautu is 23 years old and a new graduate with a Bachelor of Nursing, a product of the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS).

Her whakapapa can be traced to the islands of Tuvalu, specifically the villages of Teava and Kulia from the island of Niutao. Born in Fiji, Avaee has spent her life between Fiji, Australia and Aotearoa. She arrived in Aotearoa under a Pacific Access Category (PAC) Resident Visa  because of the threat of climate change and sea level rise in Tuvalu. The visa allows whānau affected to gain residency overseas. Avaee is a Waitakere College alumna, a proud ‘westie’ and is looking forward to her first year working as a health professional.

Avaee began at the University in 2018 with a certificate in Health Science through MAPAS. She followed this up by completing her first year in the Bachelor of Health Science.

“That first year of the Bachelor of Health Science was really tough for me personally, I had a few family members who got sick and passed away. Mentally it took a big toll. I also thought coming from the Certificate programme I would be somewhat prepared, but the reality was stepping into the bachelors was another huge learning curve”.

Studying has helped me find who I am in a way, both academically and personally. It is a privilege and quite expensive, something that I do not take for granted.

Avaee Tautu, Bachelor of Nursing Waipapa Taumata Rau

After the struggle of the first year of the degree programme, Avaee approached a MAPAS adviser to discuss her pathway. It was there that she realised that she needed to study something she genuinely enjoyed in order to stick with it for the long run.

“The adviser sat down with me and gave me options, but really encouraged me to think about what I was enjoying and if my long term goal is to study medicine, then why not start with nursing? That way I would get experience in the hospitals and hands-on with patients just from a different angle. Then I could continue with medicine as a postgraduate option,” she explains.

So she took the advice and switched to the Bachelor of Nursing and hasn’t looked back.

Completing her degree has meant so much to not only Avaee but her extended whānau too.

“My family were so happy that I completed the degree. My mum works in mental health and so is happy that I am also stepping into that space, I will be working for Lotofale Pacific Mental Health service. I just want to make my family proud, and serve and give back to my communities.”

Avaee is proud for completing her first degree and has learnt so much about what tertiary education can offer.

“I learnt that as you study you really learn more about yourself, your habits, the world and the people around you.

"Studying has helped me find who I am in a way both academically and personally. It is a privilege but quite expensive, something that I do not take for granted. I would like to see health professionals across the board given more support so they don’t have such high rates of burnout.

“I have also learnt that students need support, especially financially, if we want more of us to succeed. Hopefully I can help be a change for our people.”

Media queries

Emmaline Pickering-Martin
Media Adviser, Pacific | Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of
E: emmaline.pickering-martin@auckland.ac.nz
M: 027 282 4654