After finishing her master’s degree in social work in New Zealand, Maria Haenga-Collins was encouraged to apply for a history PhD at ANU.
“Everyone was saying, ‘Wow! You’re going to ANU!’ I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t even start university until I had raised four children. It wasn’t until later I found out the ANU School of History, where I was going, is ranked in the top fifteen in the world,” she says.
Maria is studying through the ANU Australian Centre for Indigenous History, with a PhD on the adoption of Maori children in New Zealand under ‘closed stranger’ adoptions, where there was no identifying details between the birth family and the adopted child.
She is collecting the oral histories of adoptees, birth families, and social workers who worked in adoptions between 1955 and 1985 as part of her PhD, a process, she says, which comes naturally to her.
“History is storytelling, and I’m collecting the stories of people involved in the adoption process, many of whom are passing away, so I want to make sure their stories are heard.”
“I think it’s really important to collect this data, and in the history of adoption, there aren’t a lot of Maori voices, which makes it especially important.”
Maria says she wakes up every morning feeling “blessed” to be doing what she loves.
“Every morning I go to ‘work’, where I get to write, and read, and research, surrounded by these incredible minds. How amazing is that?!”
She says the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, while having a strong focus on Indigenous Australian histories, also promotes trans-national links and collaborations with people from many diverse backgrounds, including various Indigenous peoples.
“As a Maori woman, studying in a new field I have been affirmed for the knowledge I bring, and supported and encouraged by other ANU historians, both staff and students."
“I have really amazing supervisors who are top in their field, and all the academics are so willing to share their knowledge, and are so accessible.”
And with so much support and encouragement, Maria views her decision to enter the field of history as a positive move.
“I encourage anyone regardless of age, or background, to consider conducting a PhD through the School of History, of which the Australian Centre for Indigenous History is a part, especially if there is a story you think is important and needs telling.”
Discover how you can advance your career with a qualification from Australia's highest ranked university. Register now to attend the ANU Postgraduate Information Evening on Monday 28 November in the CBE Foyer (Building 26C).