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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

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EIT Bachelor of Social Work Honours graduate Josh Walford believes his time at EIT has set him well for a career in Social Work.

Joshua Walford graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work Honours from EIT as a mature student and credits his tough upbringing and becoming a teenage father as tools he uses to guide his practice as a Social Worker.

Josh, 42, was born in the United States to Kiwi parents. His father is well-known softballer Owen Walford. He was four when his family moved back to New Zealand. It was a difficult childhood, for Josh, which was exacerbated by his parents’ split after the family’s return. But Josh also returned to a large supportive wider whānau.

It was at High School in Hastings that Josh  (Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungunu) met the mother of his five children. Their first child was born towards the end of their final year at school, but he had to leave early to find work.

“It was off to the freezing works for me to earn a living. It was good money and I worked with good people, including a lot of family.. So, I was there for a good decade or so.”

“I reached a point where I realised that I was going to be there for the rest of my life, and I wanted to do something different. I was getting a bit long in the tooth, so I decided to study at EIT.”

Josh’s marriage ended which was a huge change, but paved a path towards studying at EIT and essentially became the start of a new life.

“It filled in a lot of gaps for me. I wanted to do something meaningful and also set an example for my kids. I enjoy using my hands, but it got to a stage where it was not fulfilling.”

“My mother, Dorothy Waitoa, who is a Social Worker, suggested that I try that. I enrolled but I did not realise how suited I was to it until I started getting into the degree.”

Josh found that Social Work lined up with how he thought and saw the world.

“I was able to look back and see my own life and that of my whānau. It was quite enlightening.”

Josh’s degree was a professional and personal journey for him. He now has a job at Oranga Tamariki in Hastings, and he is determined to play a role in showing Aotearoa New Zealand the good work that the organisation is doing.

He has no doubt that the practices he learned at EIT have stood him in good stead in his new role.

“I had been doing physical work for 20 years, so I was not used to studying. It was different, but I found it interesting. Our tutors really knew what they were talking about, and they were very supportive of everyone. There is a huge amount of knowledge there that gets given to learners.”

Josh, who is engaged to be married, was thrilled when he was selected to the Honours programme. It was a chance for him to further build and integrate his Social Work and his Māori heritage. His qualitative research was called An exploration into the unique voice, aspirations and experiences of Tāne Māori practising Social Work In Aotearoa, New Zealand.

“It ended up being quite personal and it was not necessarily where I wanted the research to go, but it was a good experience and quite humbling to feel that I was adding something to the issue.”

For now Josh is just keen to focus on the job he has.

“I’m trying to concentrate on establishing my practice and I’m still not sure what my practice is yet, but I like the notion of helping the general public.”

Charlotte Chisnell, Social Work Lecturer and Programme Coordinator for the Bachelor of Social Work programme, says the team is very proud of Josh and his achievements.

“Not only has he completed his journey through the Bachelor of Social Work but he has also achieved a first class honours degree. Josh is a role model for all  Tāne Māori who are considering a career in social work.”

MIL OSI