Teuru schooled in several different countries as her parents moved around with their employment. In between times she attended Titikaveka College and Tereora College. During a school break in Rarotonga, she worked in a six week holiday programme put on by the Ministry of Marine Resources. This interested her so much that she decided to study Marine Science at University. Teuru completed a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Coastal Ecology at the University of Auckland, graduating in September 2014.
Presently employed as a Pearl Biologist in Manihiki, Teuru enjoys the flexibility of her work programme. As long as she looks after her key responsibilities, “I can determine my own work schedule” Teuru said. She also likes the fact that her work helps people and makes a difference in the pearl industry.
While she is bonded, Teuru was always going to come back for personal and family reasons. She believes that the Public Service is a good starting place and that young people don’t realise that there are so many opportunities here.
In the future, Teuru would like to do some post-graduate study and wants to eventually work in the region. Her advice to other graduates is to “come back and work, make the most of the experience that they are given and don’t look at it as working out the bond”.
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, University of Auckland
Present Position: Pearl Biologist, Manihiki, Ministry of Marine Resources
Taina Iro attended Tereora College until Year 12, when she went to Auckland for Year 13. This was followed immediately by six years at the University of Auckland completing a Bachelor of Commerce, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Commerce and then a Masters Degree of Commerce in January 2015.
She chose to return home and has taken up a position in the Treasury Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management. Although she has only been in the position for a few months and is still learning the job, Taina is enjoying the experience. “I have learnt a lot during the short time that I have been here. I’ve also been able to apply the skills and knowledge that I have gained from my studies.”
After nearly eight years away, she is enjoying settling back into life here in Rarotonga and being home with her family. “I have always intended to return back to the Cook Islands after my studies” Taina said. She recognises that although students may think that it is better to get experience overseas, her advice to them is that there are also opportunities here in the Cook Islands.
Qualifications: Master of Commerce, University of Auckland; Post-Graduate Diploma in Commerce, University of Auckland; Bachelor of Commerce, University of Auckland.
Present Position: Senior Procurement Officer, Treasury Dept, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.
Samantha Puati is an ex-Tereora College student and completed a Bachelor of Physical Education and Health at the University of Auckland. In 2013, she returned to the Cook Islands and straight into teaching back at Tereora College. As some of her study was funded by a Cook Islands Government Scholarship, Samantha had a two year bond period, but has continued on afterwards.
For Samantha, the blend of work and lifestyle is an important part of living in the Cook Islands. Samantha and her partner are about to start a family and for now, this is the place they want to be. “Both of our families are here, so there will be no shortage of babysitters.”
Samantha enjoys working with young people so while teaching keeps her occupied now, she could possibly move into counselling in the future. This could mean further training and study for a relevant counselling qualification. While this would be overseas, she would return to work back here.
Samantha recognises that more money can be made overseas by teachers, but her advice for returning graduates coming into teaching is “to stick at it, as in the end it is all worthwhile.”
Qualification: Bachelor of Physical Education, University of Auckland
Present Position: Teacher, Tereora College, Ministry of Education
Mayor Tairi Pokino
Mayor attended secondary school at Tereora College on Rarotonga. After completing Year 13, she spent a gap year working as a teller at the ANZ Bank in Rarotonga, before going to the University of Auckland. Mayor finished a Bachelor of Health Science before moving on to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Health and a Master of Public Health.
Mayor is presently working as a Health Information Officer at the Ministry of Health. Her main focus is on data collection, entry and analysis which feed into the various issues that the Ministry deals with. Mayor enjoys “finding the problems and recommending solutions for those problems.”
Mayor was not on a scholarship from the Cook Islands Government, which meant that she was not obligated to return after graduating. Mayor feels however, that being a Cook Islander, “our country deserves our best service, more than other countries do.”
While she has not thought too much about a career path, Mayor would like to focus on research into youth health in the future. She thinks that this is something that she can do from here.
In her quietly spoken manner, Mayor’s advice to others is: “Choose the Cook Islands; you won’t have any regrets.”
Qualifications: Master of Public Health, University of Auckland; Post-Graduate Diploma in Public Health University of Auckland;Bachelor of Health Science, University of Auckland.
Present Position: Health Information Officer, Health Information Unit, Ministry of Health
Georgia Langdon was born and raised Australia and attended secondary school on the Sunshine Coast. Following a gap year working in a bakery completing a Certificate III in Retail Operations, she attended James Cook University in Townsville. Georgia completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Advanced Marine Biology and Aquaculture.
While she was growing up in Australia, Georgia always had in her mind that she would come and work in the Cook Islands at some stage. A trip to Rarotonga in 2006 for Vaka Eiva reinforced this. During her final term at University in Nov 2010, one of Georgia’s lecturers forwarded on an advertisement about a job in Manihiki as a Pearl Biologist. Georgia applied, was successful and began the job in March 2011.
Now based in Rarotonga, Georgia enjoys the opportunities to upskill and learn in her job. “In a small administration I get a chance to do more high level work, particularly because fisheries is on a regional scale,” Georgia said. Her immediate future will include a three month participation in the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Leadership Programme and long term Georgia would like to do some post-graduate study.
For Georgia, being here has enabled her to find out more about her extended family. This is a big part of why she has stayed, along with the “awesome lifestyle”, Georgia said. She has also become involved in different community groups which she probably wouldn’t have done in Australia.
To those considering a move to the Cook Islands, Georgia would say that there are so many opportunities if you come home: “The salary may be lower but the chances to learn are enormous. I never moved here for the salary, I moved here for the experience.”
Qualifications: Bachelor of Science, James Cook University.
Present position: Senior Fisheries Officer, Offshore Fisheries Division, Ministry of Marine Resources.
Allanah attended Nukutere College and Tereora College before going to the University of Waikato to complete a Bachelor of Business Analysis, majoring in accounting. Since February 2015, she has been working with the Cook Islands Audit Office in Rarotonga.
What Allanah enjoys most about her job is that she is gaining a good understanding of different areas in Government as she audits the different Ministries. At times though, this can be quite challenging as, “different clients have different issues” Allanah also enjoys being part of the Audit team because “everyone is really good and helps each other out.”
While her career path is not something that Allanah is focussed on, she is working towards being a chartered accountant and can accomplish that with the assistance of the Audit Office. Allanah has to complete two years of work experience before she can begin studying for the Charted Accountant exams.
Allanah says that despite the difference between pay scales in the Cook Islands and overseas, graduates should not be discouraged by what is on offer: “There are a lot of opportunities that you can take, you can build yourself and your career”.
Qualifications: Bachelor of Business Analysis, University of Waikato
Present Position: Auditor, Cook Islands Audit Office.
Adoniah’s love of basketball has been an important part of her education history. She was in a basketball development programme which involved so much travelling from her home in Kaitaia in New Zealand that she began doing home schooling. Once she reached secondary school, the family moved to Auckland and Adoniah attended Mt. Albert Grammar, which has a strong basketball programme. A basketball scholarship then took her to Hillsborough College in Florida, U.S.A for four years where she completed a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree majoring in journalism.
After completing her studies, Adoniah originally came to the Cook Islands on holiday to visit her family. She applied for and got an internship at the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation which has now turned into a fulltime job working in the Destination Marketing Division.
Adoniah has realised that there are more opportunities available to her in the Public Service here than in similar positions overseas: “particularly as I am just starting out in my career” she said. Adoniah enjoys the people that she works with and also still gets involved with basketball as a part-time Development Officer for FIBA; the international parent body for basketball.
Adoniah would recommend coming back to anyone beginning their career as she feels that, “the Public Service is a great avenue for development for young employees if they are eager to learn”. Adoniah’s career path will definitely be in marketing, perhaps focussing on sports marketing.
Qualification: Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Hillsborough College, Florida.
Present Position: Online Marketing Officer, Destination Marketing Division, Cook Is. Tourism Corporation.
Alfred moved to New Zealand when he was five years old and attended primary school there and in Australia. After his family moved back to the Cook Islands, Alfred went to Titikaveka and Tereora Colleges. He gained a scholarship to go to the University of Auckland where he did Architectural Studies. Alfred completed his degree in 2013 and began work at the Cook Islands Investment Corporation in February 2014.
As part of his job, Alfred gets to network with professionals around the island. He enjoys being able to learn, “first-hand from people who have done it all.” This is helping him to get out of his comfort zone and do projects such as the plans for the new Nikao Primary School.
After he finishes his bond period Alfred would like to get more experience before going back to University to complete the rest of the requirement to become a fully qualified Architect. This will mean at least two more years of study.
While Alfred’s career is in Architecture, his passion is Automotive Design and Mechanics. Ideally, he would like to combine them some day. “Life is too short to have just the one job.” Alfred said.
Alfred’s advice to other graduates; ”If you are looking for a career in the public service, make sure you choose a study path in a career you will love.”
Qualifications: Bachelor of Architectural Studies, University of Auckland.
Present Position: Designer, Cook Islands Investment Corporation.
James was born in New Zealand and did most of his schooling there before moving to Singapore and then Sydney for his last year of secondary school. James then attended the University of Queensland, where he completed a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Economics before carrying on to complete an Honours in Economics. While working in Canberra he completed a Masters in International and Development Economics from the Australian National University (ANU). For James’ work on his Masters, he received the Helen Hughes Award for the highest aggregate score in the Masters programmes at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.
While he was studying for his Masters, James had begun working full time at the Department of Finance in Canberra. Following this James worked for two years in the Australian Treasury Department in international finance and development before coming to the Cook Islands in 2012.
James and his family were frequent visitors to the Cook Islands during his childhood. One of the reasons that he took up economics was “seeing the difference in living standards really inspired me to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and what better way than through economics.” Moving to the Cook Islands was also because James wanted his work to make a difference somewhere he considered home.
Three years on, James stays for a combination of reasons: “the lifestyle is easy, I don’t have a long commute to work, I love my job and I am close to family. It’s home now.” James said. He enjoys the people he works with, and enjoys contributing to and seeing the outcome of, policy decisions much more directly than if he was working in a larger organisation overseas.
James believes that those considering returning to the Cook Islands should, “be ambitious, believe that you have something valuable to contribute, and be thirsty for finding the opportunities.”
Qualifications: Masters in International and Development Economics, Australian National University; Bachelor of Economic (Hons), University of Queensland; Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Economics, University of Queensland.
Present position: Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management.
“As a Cook Islander it was always my intention to come back home after completing my studies. Working for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) has always been one of my goals. The young achiever program they have in place and internships for University students during the summer break provide excellent opportunities that have helped me gain work experience in the field I studied. As an economic analyst in the Budget Division I have had the opportunity to work closely with Heads of Ministries, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, Mayors and Executive Officers from the Outer Islands and Finance Managers. They have introduced me to an environment of professionalism that I never thought I would experience especially within such a short time of working here.
As a young Cook Island adult, I fully understand how we all have different preferences when it comes to the type of jobs we are willing to have. What I have gained from this though, is a work experience in the Cook Islands Audit Office and a job at the Ministry of Finance which both provide the work experience and skills that I envisioned myself to achieve after completing my bachelors
Improvements are always needed and more information and training is required to encourage our people who have moved overseas to study to come back home and work. We are eager to have our people come back and having them with a well educated background, they can help in developing our economy and making a difference not only for themselves but also for our people.”
“In 2011 I was one of the fortunate Cook Islanders to receive a scholarship under the New Zealand Development Scheme (NZDS). One of my obligations to that scholarship was that I return and work for two years. Considering how generous the scholarship was, I never rendered this commitment a burden. It actually fostered a desire to help make a positive difference in the Cook Islands, so I made it a priority to develop my skills and gain as much knowledge and understanding as I could.
The satisfaction of being able to practice what I’ve learnt, and give back to our country is one of the main things I enjoy about my current role working for the Public Sector. I am currently part of the team at CIIC who is responsible for the design of the new Apii Nikao. It has been a challenging yet rewarding experience. Working for the Public Service has also given me the opportunity to learn from respected locals who not only have experience in my line of work, but are also well versed with the affairs of our country.
My advice to Cook Islanders interested in working for the Cook Islands Public Service would be to keep an open mind about the opportunities, and I think there should be more awareness about the responsibilities of the Public Service and the opportunities they can offer our people.”