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International success for Toi Ohomai students

Winner of the International Group Work Essay competition, Cameron Te Wini. Image: Supplied.

Two social work students from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology have taken out first and second place in an international essay writing competition.

Cameron Te Wini claimed first place in the International Group Work Essay competition earlier this month, while his classmate Tarn Kanara was named runner-up.

The annual competition is open to students across the world, who are in group analytic psychotherapy training. To enter, students had to submit an original unpublished paper integrating theoretical material with clinical issues, while paying attention to confidentiality and consent to publication.

This year, the competition was judged by an international panel of group analysts consisting of Professor Elizabeth Rohr from Germany, Ivan Urlich from Croatia, Goran Ahlin from Sweeden, Yael Doron from Israel and Val Parker from the UK.

Cameron says the won could have gone either way but he was proud the first and second spots were claimed by Toi Ohomai students.

“I think that comes down to the calibre of tutors and the quality of the course. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without them teaching me, for a start. They’re really awesome and this success is largely down to them.”

Both in their final year of the Bachelor of Social Work at Toi Ohomai, Cameron and Tarn, together with their fellow classmates, were required to write an essay as part of their Advanced Group Work paper.

When outlining the assignment, tutor Donna Guy told the class if any essay was of a high enough standard then she would recommend it be entered in to the international competition.

Cameron says they were both delighted when they found out that their essays were considered good enough to be submitted.

“The fact that our essays were even considered was good enough for us, but when Donna phoned from New York to tell me I had won – that feeling was just unreal.”

Cameron says his essay explored using the concept of a wake tete, or fishing canoe, to develop a process of helping people in the social work context.

He says the idea of using the waka tete was given to the class by Donna and they had to choose to detail the concept by applying it to one of four groups of vulnerable peoples.

Cameron chose to focus on women who had been involved in domestic violence.

“We had to explain how we would set up the process for them and the safety aspects and protocol criteria. We had to go through risk management and all of the planning as well as cultural and other critical impacts.

“But, while keeping the academic focus, we had to write it so that anyone outside of New Zealand would know what a waka tete was, as well as understand the Maori context.”

Cameron says he had to do a lot of research but his essay got a real boost after him and his classmates paddled a wake tete and experienced first-hand the benefits of utilising this tool while working with diverse groups.

He says it has been this practical approach to learning about social work concepts that has really helped him.

Cameron’s win earned him prize money, as well as the right to have his essay published in the prestigious Group Analysis Journal, which he says provides him with extra impetus to consider postgraduate studies.

However, Cameron says for now he is just focused on finishing this year and gaining his undergraduate degree so he can begin working as a social worker/

“I’ve always wanted to help people. After years in different careers and industries, I decided to take the plunge and study towards a degree in social work. Now I finally get to do what I’ve always wanted, which is to work with others toward better futures and outcomes.”

Donna says six of her students submitted essays that were of a high standard, but it was ultimately decided to submit only the top two papers.

She says it was the first time any Toi Ohomai students have entered the competition and believes there are immense benefits to participating in external competitions and initiatives.

“Since their success in this competition I’ve already received requests from research team members for Tarn and Cam to present their papers. However, I think the most significant thing for both Tarn and Cameron is they now have the confidence to consider studying towards postgraduate and masters qualifications.

“When you think about the barriers to completing a degree for Maori students in our rohe, both Tarn and Cam have overcome significant obstacles. They are proof that, when supported and taught academic skills, Maori students can indeed succeed.”

Toi Ohomai will mark the achievement with a celebration event at Tangatarua Marae, at Mokoia Campus, on July 23.

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