Scholar wants to effect change

    Invercargill woman Henrietta McNeill is one of 12 people to be awarded a NZ Fulbright Scholarship in 2021 and will be heading to the United States next year. PHOTO: Department of Pacific Affairs from The Australian National University/ SUPPLIED

    A FORMER Invercargill woman hopes her studies can make a difference for Pacific Island people as well as help the Government create better policies.

    Last week, Henrietta McNeill was one of 12 people awarded a New Zealand Fulbright Scholarship for 2021.

    She will travel to the United States next year to continue her work on the security effects of criminal deportations, especially for the Pacific Island community.

    The Fulbright programme is the US government’s flagship international education exchange programme, designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the US and other countries.

    “I’m really grateful,” Ms McNeill said.

    “It is such an impressive cohort, so it is amazing to even be part of a group of such impressive people, really.”

    Ms McNeill, a former James Hargest College pupil who has worked for the Southland District Council, is at present a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, researching international security, and lives in Brisbane.

    The 30-year-old said she had a close and personal connection with Pacific Island culture as she had previously lived in Samoa and Tokelau.

    Henrietta McNeill makes makes palusami, a dish of coconut
    meat wrapped in taro leaves, on the island of Manono,

    In her career, she had worked with a number of organisations which advocated for Pacific communities.

    “When you look at deportation to the Pacific, they often come from what is called the Pacific triangle which is Australia, New Zealand and the United States, because that is where usually Pacific people generally migrate to,” she said.

    “So by studying in Australia and being from New Zealand, I felt I was missing that link and understanding [from the US perspective].”

    She said the Fulbright scholarship would give her an opportunity to meet and learn more about the work of academics in her field.

    Ms McNeill will spend a month with Professor Juliet Stumpf, who developed the concept of “crimmigration”, at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland; four months at the University of California, Los Angeles, to study with Associate Professor Keith Camacho; and three months at the University of Hawaii.

    She hoped her studies could benefit the Pacific Island community, as many people faced huge challenges when they were deported back to their home countries.

    “I really hope my research can support better policy development for the reintegration of criminal deportees.”

    Because of the lockdown in Brisbane, Ms McNeill could not take part in a parliamentary ceremony held last week to honour the 12 winners of the scholarship.

    She was delighted her mother could represent her at the event.

    “Without my mum and dad, I wouldn’t be where I’m today. I’m very grateful to them.

    “It was lovely to see her being recognised at the ceremony.”