Living in Australia during the “unjust politics” of the (John) Howard Government sparked a fire in Jodie Hodgson which led to her studying social work.
This year she graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from EIT Tairāwhiti with honours- the first ever honours student for the campus.
“I think the beginning was in high school where I studied sociology and then when I went to Australia to live during the Howard Government and saw the unjust politics – it cemented my strong social justice conscience.
“I was a social activist in the early years and needed to turn that into something legitimate.”
Returning to New Zealand and having a baby gave her the opportunity to start studying.
“There are not many opportunities in life where you can stop working and with a baby, it gave me room to start studying.”
Based in Nelson in 2014, she started studying social work part time for two years.
“Then I realised we could not afford to live in Nelson so I was looking for a place I could finish my studies and afford to buy a house – that was Gisborne.”
Because she was studying part time and the transfer from Nelson to EIT Tairāwhiti required some repetition, she took six years to complete the degree with honours.
“I was ambivalent about doing honours but my tutor Shajimon Peter was inspiring and very persuasive”
It meant a lot of extra work over her last year researching appropriately – activism in social work.
It involved interviewing practicing social workers who identified as activists or took on activism as part of their work – then submitting a written article on the subject.
A “terrifying but awesome” end to the year was presenting her paper at a conference in Perth.
“Shaji (tutor) found this activist conference in Perth and helped me through it.
“Tutors Rehia Whaanga and Sarah Elliot both gave me wonderful support in my honours year also.”
Completing honours is something all students can do, she says.
“It is really about doing what you have to do – just one foot in front of another. I didn’t realise until I had finished quite how many steps I took.”
Jodie is grateful she was offered a job with Barnardos while finishing her last placement and is now loving working full time as a child and family social worker.
“It was a bit nerve racking in the beginning trying to remember things I had learned. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and you have an interesting beginning to a career.”