Ruby Bishara has come a long way from bringing up two girls on her own in Masterton with little in the way of future prospects.
Just a few years later, she’s a registered social worker in Tauranga and is completing the Kaitiakitanga: Postgraduate Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
Ruby - Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Te Rangi - says the social services sector had always appealed as a field to work in after growing up watching her parents always helping others – both in their work and personal lives.
Not content with the skills she acquired during her four-year social work degree, Ruby says the Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision has enabled her to continue growing as both a social work practitioner and as a person.
“What attracted me to the Postgraduate Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision was the fact that I could develop my own model of practice to be able to use myself in practice but for others to use as well,” she says.
“The programme has enhanced my practice. It has expanded my mind, the way I think and how I see things because I’m very reflective. I’ve grown so much personally and professionally.”
The year-long programme is unique in that it uses mātauranga Māori approaches as the core of its supervision curriculum in a range of different disciplines.
Studying with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa also provides a unique learning environment and Ruby says it has been a different experience to mainstream tertiary organisations.
“The differences that I‘ve noticed...is that we’re given an opportunity to explore practice and what it looks like. We are able to kōrero with each other about theory, te Ao Māori, about principle,” she says.
“But I also think that it’s important as a practitioner, as a kaimahi, we need to be willing to do more and to be vulnerable in a space that we’re not used to. There we’ll grow and develop as a practitioner.”
The quality of her work has seen Ruby awarded the $3000 Rewi Panapa Memorial Scholarship from the AST Scholarship Trust for 2020.
She says incorporating mātauranga Māori into her practice brings significant benefits to the whānau she works with.
“Where I used to work I was talking to one of the managers who was a social worker and she shared with me some of her kōrero about when we practice with whānau we need to also remember their whakapapa, we still celebrate their names on the marae,” she says.
“So when I work with whānau I always think about their whakapapa...I think about their tūpuna, I think about that when I make a decison to support our whānau, because when we save one person in a whakapapa we save a whole generation of whakapapa.”