Fijian women Miriama Tawake (20) and Heather Jean Matairavula (26) were in their first year of Bachelor of Nursing education at EIT for four or so months before they realised they were both Fijian.
Once they made that discovery last year, it was as though a whole world of connections was revealed. Now the pair are the best of friends and feel as though they’ve known each other forever.
But that feeling goes back further to their mothers. Aliti Tawake and Melaia Matairavula also trained as nurses at the same time in Fiji. They had lost contact over the years but through their daughters, are now back in touch. For a while the two families had lived in the same Fijian village and the young women’s older sisters had also been firm friends. And stretching the connections further, Heather-Jean’s partner turns out to be Miriama’s cousin.
“When my partner and I arrived in Hawke’s Bay for his job in 2016 we knew nobody,” says Heather. “Now we have this huge family network.”
The inseparable duo both at EIT and in their own time, have found a strong support in each other, even down to having complementary skills and study approaches.
“We are there for each other, we really understand what the other one is going through,” says Miriama. “Our parents have struggled to bring us to New Zealand for better opportunities and we feel we have to try twice as hard to honour their struggle. It puts pressure on us and sometimes that can get us down. But we just bring each other up.”
With their happy demeanours, the student nurses say they are heard before they are seen. “We always get split into different groups by the lecturers because we’re laughing all the time,” Miriama giggles.
They are loving their studies and say that EIT is “just right” for them.
“We love it. The small approach is such a big help. The small class size means it’s easier to learn and the lecturers are really approachable and helpful,” says Heather-Jean. “And there’s lots of helpful services.”
Both are enjoying their practical community placements – Heather-Jean is currently in mental health and Miriama is in an aged care residential facility. They both say they’d like to work with babies or children but already have started to consider other areas of nursing. “My surgical placement really opened my eyes,” says Heather-Jean.
Fijian nurses currently make up one percent of the HBDHB workforce. These two caring souls are keen to add to that number.