Jerry Wells Hagaria

Jerry Wells Hagaria

Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development student
Graduate Diploma in Health Science

His goal is to help communities reduce disaster and climate risks, says Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development student Jerry Wells Hagaria who came to AUT from the Solomon Islands, supported by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade New Zealand – Manaaki New Zealand Scholarship.

“Before coming to AUT, I worked as a senior operations officer in the Solomon Islands’ National Emergency Operations Centre. I’ve experienced responding to disasters across the Solomon Islands and have been involved with communities’ resilience programmes.

“Through these experiences I’ve experienced first-hand the impact of disasters on communities. This inspired me to learn more about this field and I’m passionate about helping communities better understand, identify and manage the disaster and climate risks present in their communities.”

He is looking forward to applying what he has learnt to make a difference to his home country.

“Once I’ve completed this programme, I’ll resume my duties at the national disaster management office in the Solomon Islands. I believe that research in this field is important in terms of guiding and supporting government policies and interventions to responsively address communities’ disaster and climate risks.”

Gaining valuable insights
He has enjoyed the variety of courses in the Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development, Jerry says.

“One of the courses I particularly liked was the disaster and development course, which focused on recognising the interconnection between development and disasters of all scales. The readings for this paper were enlightening.

“Another very interesting course focused on building resilient communities; critically analysing the concepts of resilient communities and sustainable development within the context of emergency and disaster management. One important insight I gained from this course was the importance of putting people at the centre of development and recognising their capacities. This really got me thinking about my practice and the communities we’re responsible for.”

For his master’s degree research, he explored the integration of traditional knowledge in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation policies and practices. His research was supervised by Dr Loic Le De and Dr Ailsa Holloway.

“I chose this topic because through experience I’ve learnt that traditional knowledge is important for communities’ resilience, especially in the Solomon Islands. However, the introduction of relief aid can make it difficult for the country to maintain such traditional knowledge. I’m therefore curious to find out how government and non-governmental organisations have incorporated traditional knowledge in their policies and practices, why this knowledge has been disappearing and how it can be restored.”

Advice for other students
Now in his final semester, Jerry has some great advice for other students.

“I’d advise international students who want to undertake disaster risk management or climate change programmes to consider AUT. The disaster risk management and development programme at AUT is very relevant and up to date, and you can choose from courses across the fields of disaster risk management and public health. The lecturers are very supportive and committed to helping you graduate. I’m grateful to study here at AUT.”

There is plenty of support available if you need it, he adds.

“I joined AUT without having done a bachelor’s degree and was first admitted to the Graduate Diploma in Health Science before undertaking postgraduate study. To make things even more complicated, English is my second language. But fortunately, AUT has a lot of learning support available.

“The library staff are very helpful and have helped me find books for my assessments, and the library workshops were very relevant. The lecturers have also been very supportive – they seemed to understand my challenges and always promptly responded to my queries.”

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