Medical Doctor

Name: Teisa
Age at interview: 30 years
Occupation: Medical Doctor

Ethnicity: Tongan
Country of birth: Australia

In this video
0:00Early Childhood
0:54Role Models
5:41High School
7:25Year 12 Results and University
17:19Leaving Home
20:00Graduation and Career
21:36Cultural Values and Language
26:16Parent’s Expectations
31:18Education Support
36:58Family Relationships
40:35Career Aspirations
42:22Work-Life Balance
44:04Cultural Strengths
47:31Advice for Youth

Early Childhood

Okay. So my name’s Teisa Holani. I’m 30 years old and I’m currently living in Canberra. I was born in Hobart, in Tasmania, and both my parents are Tongan. I’m the eldest of three, I have two brothers, and my whole family are living in Victoria at the moment.

So the start of my childhood, a lot of it was spent … The first few years anyway were in Hobart, and at that time there weren’t many Islanders at all, and then, we moved. So when I was seven years old, we moved to Melbourne because my dad had the calling to come into the ministry. And so, we moved to Melbourne when I was seven.

Role Models

And I think at that time, I had a few, how can I say it? I had three people that I really looked up to. So my dad, before he became a faifekau, a church minister, he was a medical scientist working in Hobart, which is why we were all born there and living there. My auntie, who has a PhD in chemistry, so she’s working as a scientist. And then, my dad’s best friend who was a medical doctor.

And these three people I think really inspired me to want to do science, especially I think my dad’s best friend. He is a medical doctor working in Australia, where there are not many Pacific Islander doctors here. And I think at that young age, at seven years old, I was already looking and seeing, wow, this is someone that I really look up to and I aspire to be like him, just hearing the stories of his work.

And also, at that young age, I was able to identify what he was able to do with his job. He was able to travel, he was able to provide, and that was a huge thing for me seeing that he could provide for his family. He had his mum living with him, and as you know, with our Pacific Islander … our culture, caring for your family and especially our elders is something that we take pride in being able to do.

And then, just seeing him as a doctor here in Australia, with, as I said, not many Islanders, I just felt that that was something I wanted to do like, “Wow, I don’t see any…” Especially females. I remember thinking, “There’s no females, I want to be one of those female Tongans that is a doctor here.”

I was seven years old at that time and we were living in Melbourne, and so, I didn’t really think much of it because I was still in primary school, but then we moved to the country where my dad had his first placement as a faifekau. And this was a small rural community in Central Victoria where there are no Islanders, and we were the only Islanders there.

And I remember growing up, there were a few times that we had difficulties with racism growing up in this small community, just because we were different to everyone else. For example, my mum makes the best lamb curry and we had someone come over and one of the palangi boys came over and was like, “Oh, this looks like vomit,” because it was like green, yellow. And I was really offended, and so every time I went to school, I would hide my food because I was shamed, people looking at our food and judging it. So that was one thing, I guess.

And then, I remember there was another time my brother…We were playing and someone said, “Oh, your skin looks like the colour of poo.” And it just made me realize that we are … I didn’t really think anything much of it, like us being different, but then these little things happened, and I was like, “Wow, we are different to these people in these communities.”

And so, it was hard because we felt like we were the only Islanders there, but then when we’d go to Tongan functions and family things, I really felt like a plastic because I didn’t grow up with Tongans, like going to a Tongan church. We grew up going to palangi churches, my Tongan is not the best, still not the best.

And so, I really had difficulty trying to find my place, if that makes sense, because I didn’t look like the palangi, I didn’t act like a Tongan, and so, it was really hard I think trying to find my identity growing up as a Pacific Islander here in Victoria, in a country town. So that was something I really struggled with for a bit.

High School

And then we moved to Geelong, which is where my family is currently based. And I was in high school at that time and so things were getting serious with school and I was really wanting to do well. And I always had medicine at the back of my mind, and I had my dad’s best friend as my role model that I was looking up to and drawing inspiration from.

In Geelong, again, we were the only Islanders there. My dad again was at a palangi church. And initially, I started off at a public school there and I was getting bullied there, again, I think because I was different, no Islanders, a lot of palangi and things and that was a really difficult time for me.

And then, thankfully, I was able to get into one of the private schools in Geelong with the help of one of our church members who had connections to the school. And so, I was grateful to be able to get in for Year 10, 11, and 12. And honestly, they were probably some of the best years that I’d had in my schooling, at this school. And while, again, I was the only Islander there, I just felt that I was able to grow, and they really supported my dream of wanting to become a doctor.

Year 12 Results and University

But in saying that, so year 12 rolls around and medicine, the ENTER score, now they call it I think the ATAR, but at that time, the ENTER score for medicine…And at this time it’s still very high, like 99 point something. And I did not get that ENTER score that I was hoping for.

I feel like for a lot of our young people, they think, “Okay, I didn’t get the ENTER score that I wanted, to get into my degree.” And they think, “That’s the end of my life. I didn’t get it and now I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.”

But I think something that I want young people to know is that it doesn’t matter what ENTER score you get, there are always pathways to getting to the degree or course that you were wanting to get into. It might take a little longer, but if you’re really wanting it, then that time to do it shouldn’t sway you.

So as I said, I didn’t get into medicine first go. I got into a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. A lot of people in that biomedical course, they do it as an undergrad with the hope of getting into postgraduate medicine. And again, I was the only Islander in that class.

And I remember in our second year of biomed, one of the professors said, “Look, I know everyone here is probably gunning to do medicine.” And he asked everyone to put up their hand, “Who wants to do medicine?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m one of them.” And he said, “Less than 5% of you will get into medicine.” And I was thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t look like someone that should get into medicine. I look different to everyone.” But I remember thinking, “I know I can do this. If my dad’s friend can do it, I can do it.”

So that was second year biomed. Third year biomed rolls around and we…To get into medicine, you have to sit an entrance exam and I sat that exam four times before I got into medicine. And I think another thing that I want people to draw from this, or take away from this is that if you really want something and it’s your dream and your desire, then you can’t…Every day I’d always be thinking, “I want to do medicine. I want to be a doctor.”

The first time I sat it, obviously I was so disappointed I didn’t get in, and you sit it once a year, so this is over three, four years mind you. So third year biomed, I sat it to get in for the following year for medicine. I didn’t get in, so I did a Bachelor of Health and Medical Science I think it was, an honours year, in doing research, trying to boost my GPA as well as studying for the GAMSAT.

And so, I sat it again, didn’t get in, sat it again, didn’t get in, and then the final time I was like, “Okay, I just need to focus, put all my focus onto this exam because this is the fourth time I’m going to sit it now.” And each sitting is like $400, $500 and obviously my parents are forking out the money for this.

So my mum and dad, I’m so grateful for them because without them and their support, not only financially, but mentally, emotionally, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. My mum paid for me to do a course to help me prepare for this exam, which was almost three grand. And my mum doesn’t work a high paying job. My mum works as an age care worker. But I think, honestly, when it came to school, my mum and dad would put money…I don’t even know where they found this money sometimes.

There was no limit to how much they would spend when it came to education. And I think it was because, while my dad was able to pursue further education, my mum’s parents couldn’t afford for her to leave Tonga and go to university. She passed her university entrance exams, but she wasn’t able to get a scholarship. So I think my mum, she wanted to make sure that I had the opportunities that she wasn’t able to have.

So my mum worked two jobs…Sorry, Annie. So my mum worked two jobs to get me through my private school education, to support me during university and to get me through the GAMSAT, the medical school entrance exam. And so, whenever I talk about my parents, I get very emotional because I’ll always remember the sacrifice that they made coming from Tonga with nothing, looking for a better life for their children, and that’s something that I’ll always remember. My mum she’d go to work in the morning, and we wouldn’t see her until the night. She’d go work one job and then come back.

And I think, again, coming back to medicine and just thinking about why I think maybe there’s not many Islanders in medicine here in Australia, I think it’s really hard. The financial burden that it puts on the family is huge. I mean, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t help the family, mum had to work an extra job, dad had to provide as well. And I think a lot of our people are just not able to do that. I was at uni for eight, nine years, so that’s eight, nine years of no income and having to rely on my parents.

And I just don’t think a lot of us are able to do that. We need to…Once we’ve finished school, it’s usually we’re straight into work to be able to help provide for our families and help our parents, look after maybe our youngest siblings. And as the eldest, that would have probably been my responsibility as well, but my parents were very big on, “No, you just go to uni and we’ll provide. We’ll pay for your schooling and everything.” And so, that’s something, as I said, I’m very grateful for.

If we had the financial means and the support for our people, I think we’d probably see a lot more of our Islander people in medicine. But unfortunately, and this is not new, this is common knowledge already, a lot of people that go into medicine come from families that are well off, because they come from families that do well because they can support them through that financial burden, and you don’t have to worry about money and things like that. I’m not explaining it very well, but I’m sure you get what I mean.

So then eventually I got through. So with my fourth attempt, I’d sat the GAMSAT for the fourth time. And for that I was working part-time at a uniform shop. I quit my job, so I was studying three months solid, going to the library every single day. My mum would drop me off to the library. I’d be there Monday to Friday, weekends off, just studying my heart out for this exam, no social media, no hanging out with friends. Weekdays was just dedicated to doing study. And that paid off, I got to into medicine that following year here in Canberra, which is where I’ve been ever since.

Leaving Home

I totally underestimated how much moving away from my family would impact me. I’d never moved away from home before and like a lot of other Islander families we’re a very close, tight-knit family. And so, moving away, I was so homesick, I struggled with being away from my family. I think that whole year I’d cry every night. It was really hard, but we got there.

My parents, again, my support in everything, they would call me every night and they still do call me every night to pray, so to lotu. And I think if I did not have the support of my parents in that way, there’s no way that I would have got through this degree. Every night, I know that they will call and we’ll pray together. My dad will lotu and share word from the scripture and that would serve as encouragement and also just reminding me why I’m here.

And there were times that I wanted to throw in the towel. Medical school is not an easy journey. It’s tough, but not only was I able to find support in my family, but through my faith as well, knowing that God didn’t bring me this far just for me to come this far and not finish the work that he had started in me.

And so, I guess just thinking what was my motivation, knowing that there are not may Islanders here. I wanted to be able to get through and other young people see that, “Wow.” Like I looked up to my dad’s best friend, I was hoping that people will see me and be like, “Wow, she’s a Tongan. She’s a full Tongan. She’s not half Tongan, she’s a full Tongan, who did medicine here in Australia. If she can do it, then I can do it as well.”

And then also, my parents, for their sacrifice, I really wanted them to benefit from the sacrifice and everything they had invested in me.

Graduation and Career

So I graduated from medicine at the end of 2018 and that was a huge milestone. I don’t think of it as just the day that I got my degree, but the day that my parents, like everything that they had worked towards, they were able to see the fruits of their labour.

And so now, I’m currently working here in Canberra. I’ve been working here for the last two years now, and I’m working towards specializing in emergency medicine. I’m involved here in a non-for-profit organization that helps to share our culture with the community here in Canberra. So we have other Islanders involved. And while COVID has put a spanner in the works for that…But I was involved in running a homework centre here, just trying to instil good study skills at a young age for our young people just to help them with their study skills moving forward and hopefully going into tertiary studies.

Cultural Values and Language


in terms of your relationship with your parents and your cultural understanding, recognizing as well that your surroundings were predominately palangi, how did you find navigating your Tongan and that culture, that part of your identity, and then having to kind of switch back? So, if you could just touch on that. And then also, whether you speak the language? I mean, did your parents speak to you guys in Tongan when you were growing up, like that sort of thing?


Yeah, okay. Yeah, sure. So my parents they really tried very hard for us to speak in Tongan at home, if we spoke English then we would be disciplined. But it was just so hard because they were the only ones speaking Tongan to us, there was no other Tongans around. Everything else was in English, our schooling, our sports, and friends and everything else.

But I think for my brothers and I, we understand the language, but speaking doesn’t come as…We’re not fluent at all or even close to it, but I can understand when people speak Tongan to us. I mean, I have to give it up to my parents, they really did try, but when we grew up around palangis, and not having the language reinforced in other ways, it was really hard.

You were talking about identity. That was really hard. I think my brothers and I really struggled with that because in our Tongan culture, for example, my brothers can’t come into my room, I can’t go into my brother’s room, and then we’d go to our friend’s house and everyone’s in everyone’s rooms, it’s not a big deal. And we just couldn’t understand why that was the…Obviously, we understood why, but we were like, “This is so unfair, how come our palangi friends are able to do that and we’re not?”

And I remember one time my brother, he made it into the rep country side for football, when we were living in Country Victoria. And their games were always on Sundays and he was not allowed to play because it was a Sunday. And as you all know, you don’t do anything on a Sunday. It’s the Sabbath and you go to church and that’s it.

So my brother had to drop his rep side because it was Sunday and trying to explain that to the coach, I remember the coach was so angry. He just couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t let him play. And it’s just trying to navigate that as a young person was really hard. Our friends thought that we were weird. Not us weird, but certain aspects of our lives was weird, like how come my brother can’t come into my room, all that kind of stuff.

I don’t know how I navigated it, but when we’d go to our cousins, they’d call us plastics because we can’t speak Tongan. It was just from all different angles. It was just so hard, and I really don’t know how we…I don’t know if I can really give you a good answer as to how we got through it, but we just navigated through it.


There’s no real answer because we’re all just trying to survive, really, and so you just adapt to whatever context you’re in, right?


I think that’s basically what we had to do. We just adapted to it, and whatever mum and dad said, we just went with that. And we didn’t necessarily agree with it, but you don’t speak back to your parents, when they tell us something, we just do it. But obviously amongst ourselves, my brothers and I were like, “We’re not in Tonga, how come we have to live like you guys had to live in Tonga? This is Australia, we should be…” I remember thinking that a lot, but yeah.

Parent’s Expectations


Yeah, no, that’s cool. Thanks, Teisa. And so knowing that, because that’s not uncommon, in terms of when we’re growing up and not really understanding why our parents, they’ve got certain expectations on us. Do you think your perceptions have changed now that you’re older, in terms of what you understand about the culture? And in terms of when you interact with your parents, how does that change now, knowing what you know now about our culture and what you did know back then? Does that make sense?


Yeah. I just have to think about that. I never understood why my parents were so strict when it came to school, like so strict. Like my friends would go play outside and we had set homework. Even if it wasn’t from school, it would be from my parents. My dad would write out maths questions for us to do. My mum and dad would be like, “Okay…” You’d be like Grade 2, and we’d be doing maths for a Grade 6, Year 7 person. And I didn’t understand why my parents were so strict in that way and looking back, I know it was just because they wanted us to do well and wanted the best for us.

And especially from my mum, because she didn’t get that opportunity then to go to university, even though she really wanted to, she went and worked as she was the eldest girl in her family. So she went and worked and helped her parents support her siblings. So I guess when it came to being strict in that way, I never understood why we had to do homework and things like that, but now I understand looking back why my parents were so strict. Sorry, what were you asking in terms of that?



Do you still struggle with your identity now, or do you feel like you’ve come to a point where you’ve reconciled with your identity and who are you as a Tongan Australian? Is there anything, or are there any moments in your life that have really kind of helped to reconcile those things for you? Because this whole struggle with identity is a really big problem for Island Pasifika youth. And so, I’m just trying to tease out from your story what point in your life did you feel okay with who you were or who you are as a person in the Australian context, and everything that you are?


Yeah. I think to be honest it was something that I struggled with and probably still struggle with now, at times. But I think not being able to speak the language fluently and not understanding the specifics, like some bits of the culture, I found that really hard and it would make me want to sometimes avoid going to Tongan things because I wouldn’t understand, or I didn’t want to a make a fool out of myself.

But I guess I’ve come to peace with that because now I just tell myself, “Well, I’m a Tongan, my parents are Tongan, and I’m working here as a doctor serving the community here.” I just try and tell myself that I’m giving back to my people in that way, working as a doctor, and that gives me some sort of peace, I guess. But sometimes I still do avoid going to Tongan functions because I don’t fully understand sometimes the language or why certain things are being done. And then, say, if Tongans speak to me in Tongan and I speak back in English, I feel embarrassed sometimes that I can’t speak back to them in Tongan.

I’m not going to lie, it’s something that I still do struggle with, being a Tongan, having Tongan parents but being born here in Australia and growing up pretty much as a palangi I would say, with bits of the Tongan culture interweaved into that. Well, I’m still working on it is probably what the short answer is.

Education Support


So just going back to your schooling because you do mention that there’s some role models that were really instrumental in helping you decide that this is where you were going to go. And you decided on that quite early, which I think is also not very common for our Pasifika people.

So when you were going through Year 10, 11, and 12, what sorts of things did you do with your school friends to really help nurture your learning? Or, did you do any extra activities outside of school, other than what your parents…Because, your parents were quite strict with your homework. Did you find that you had to do things differently to help with your learning? What sort of assistance did you have in those high school years?


Yeah. Probably not in Year 10, but Year 11 and 12 going into VCE, I was doing study groups with friends. And I’ve always found that study groups have been very helpful because you’re talking it out and I find that, for me, helps a lot, to help me retain information. And that was something that I was doing in medical school as well, study groups.

My mum was also paying for me to go to, not courses, but coming towards the end of Year 12, there’d be like pop-up, what would you call it? Like summary courses of different subjects that I was doing in high school. A lot of my subjects were science, so I did biology, chemistry, maths. I can’t even remember, but a lot of them were science heavy. So I was attending courses for those, as well as my own study at home, and trying to utilize the teachers. I would see them outside of school hours for extra tutoring or for questions that I wasn’t quite sure about.

But my mum, coming back to that, my mum always reiterated to me if I needed a tutor that she would pay for one, but I didn’t really want to put her through that, because I already knew how much of financial strain putting me through private school was, so I was trying to use what I already had in terms of the teachers. I’d see the teachers regularly each week outside of class to try and get more help and just if I write down questions that I wasn’t sure of, from my homework or from the classes, then I’d go see them for that. So I think that’s pretty much it for me I guess, in terms of study.



mentioned in the earlier years that you guys endured some racism and some bullying. So what sort of strategies did you use when you were growing up? Or, what can you remember? How did you deal with those situations where… How did you deal with that?


Yeah. So this is when I was still quite young, I mean, I think Grade 6, so I was 12, 13 years old. And I was quite a protective older sister, so when I saw that, when…I was there when they called my brother names and things and I was shocked, because as I said, it didn’t really occur to me that we were different until these little things started happening, when they were saying our skin is different to your skin. And I was like, “Wow, actually it is different. We are different to you.” So that was an eye-opening…That’s when I started to realize we are different and that we stand out.

In terms of dealing with it, to be honest, I can’t really remember. I remember going and telling the teachers. I didn’t retaliate or anything like that, in any sort of way, but just being in shock that…I think I felt sad knowing, “Oh wow, I’m actually quite different to these people.” And I honestly can’t remember, Annie, how I dealt with it.

But, I mean, just recently, someone, like a mutual friend of ours went on Facebook and went viral with it about sharing about their experience growing up as an Australian born Tongan here in Australia and facing racism and it made me realize…And my brothers, we all watched it together and we’re like, “Wow, we weren’t the only ones that went through this.”

I wish at that time I knew that, because I felt like we were just isolated in that way, that it was only happening to us, but in actual fact, I think a lot of us in some way have had to face racism in growing up here in Australia, as Tongans or Islanders.

Family Relationships


And just in terms of your broader relationships, how connected are you to your extended family? I mean, you’ve got your mum and dad and your brothers obviously, but outside of that? So how connected are you guys to your extended family? And what sort of role does your extended family play in your life today?


Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m very close with my extended family, especially my mum’s family. As I said, my mum, with her, education was a big thing with us, and I think that is because her parents were the same, too, while they couldn’t afford to send her away. She was the eldest. So my grandfather was still working through and working his way up to have a good job. And by the time my mum’s younger sisters came through, he was in a stable job and good job that he could send them away to New Zealand to study.

So my mum’s younger sisters finished their high school in New Zealand and my grandfather funded that. And for my mum’s family, education was a huge thing. My mum’s sisters are very well educated. One of my mum’s sisters was the first Tongan to get a PhD in organic chemistry. Another one is an accountant, another one has a masters in science.

And I think growing up, because I had voiced at a young age I wanted to be a doctor, they all came together and really nurtured that, like encouraging me with school. If I did good on a school project or did well in a test, they’d send me money, just really encouraging me to do well with my education.

And so, to this day, I mean, when I graduated, they all came over from New Zealand and attended my graduation, because as I said, it wasn’t a celebration just for me getting my degree, but a celebration of the sacrifice that lots of people, not just my parents, but extended family put into me getting through.

So I still have one remaining grandparent left, so my mum’s dad and he just turned 91 on Monday, so we’re very blessed to still have him here with us. And so, we regularly Zoom in these COVID times. We regularly Zoom with my mum’s family and keep in contact with them, and they still very much support me, especially with my work here.

Being a doctor, at times it can be quite stressful, and you see a lot of things that you wouldn’t usually see on a daily basis, and just being able to have that support from my family, even though they’re not close by, is a big help to me, both for my…Supporting me. They pray for me and then obviously supporting me by calling me and checking in on me and stuff like that. So I’m very close to my mum’s sisters, they’re like my other mums. So yeah, it’s good.

Career Aspirations


in terms of your current situation with your career, what’s the next step for you? What’s the ideal in terms of what you’re building? Or, in terms of how you’re building your career now, what’s the next step, or what’s the ideal pinnacle point for you, as a doctor?


Sure, okay. So I’m currently postgraduate year two, so this is my second year of working, so I’m a resident doctor. And next year I’ve secured a job as a critical care senior resident medical officer here in Canberra. So the goal is to specialize in emergency medicine, and so, I’m still a few years off that. I have to apply to the college and be on the training program, but I probably won’t do that until 2022.

So next year I’ll be working, as I said, as a senior resident, a senior RMO in a crit care position here, working in ICU, intensive care, emergency, and anaesthetics. So next year will be about building the foundations to hopefully apply to the College of Emergency Medicine for 2022. And that program I think goes for, on a full-time basis, I think it’s about five years. So I’ve still got a few more years to go before I specialize, so we’ll see how that goes.

Work-Life Balance


I think you’ve mentioned this already in terms of it’s such a journey just to go through to be where you are now and even just to get to where you are now. If there’s anything that you could have done differently in your journey, what would that be? Is there anything that you would change to perhaps make things easier for you?


Yeah. No, that’s a good question. I think having a more balanced lifestyle, I think in terms of work-life balance. Especially in medical school, I didn’t have that and I think it was to my detriment. I think if I was involved in community groups and had things outside of medicine…I mean, during my school I was just all about study. Study was on my mind 24/7.

I didn’t have any real outlets and it showed because I put on so much weight. I think I put on like 15 kilos in med school because it was really stressful. I wasn’t coping. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t coping. And I think I’d be reiterating for anyone that if I were to go through that again, I would be involved in other things outside of medicine just to try and, what’s the word, have some work-life balance and not just be about study 24/7.

Cultural Strengths


And so, understanding…There’s some key cultural values that we have as Tongans, but what are some of the key values that you think that are embedded in your personality, or just in who you are as a person that helped to make you a better doctor? What are some of the things that, as a Tongan, that you think really helped to make you a better doctor?


Let me just think about that, Annie. I think, as a people, we have a very caring nature about us. When things happen to families, for example, say, a death in the family, our communities come together and we support that family, we mourn with them, we provide support in terms of bringing food, and helping them during the grieving process. And I think having that kind of empathy instilled within us at such a young age really helped me I feel to become a better doctor.

Especially when I see other Islanders coming into the emergency department, for example, and they see me, I see them, and we just have this…I can see that they’re shocked because there’s a Tongan, not a Tongan, but there’s an Islander, someone like them that’s working as a doctor there. And for example, like last week, I was looking after a Samoan lady and she was just like, “It makes me feel so much better knowing that there’s an Islander looking after me.” And I was like, “Wow. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to help look after you while you’re here.”

So empathy is one big thing. Respect as well is another big thing. Growing up, I see us all as we’re all humans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, if you’re a cleaner, it doesn’t matter. I’ve walked through the hospital with other doctors before, I know a lot of people from the cleaner to the person working at the coffee shop and I’ll say hello to everyone, and my boss I remember was like, “Wow, you know a lot of people.” And I’m like, “I just say hi to everyone and I’ll just get to know people.”

And I think having respect, we grow up having that instilled in us as well from a young age. It’s just when you show respect to other people, it doesn’t matter what job they’re in, or what capacity they’re at, at the hospital, people will respect you as well, if that makes sense.

Advice for Youth


we’re almost at the end and I’m just going to draw out a couple more things. So just in terms of your experience and I know that…I just think your resilience is amazing.

But for any up-coming Pasifika youth that might want to take a similar journey to yours, what are some things that they can do early on to help maybe…And recognizing as well that some of our Pasifika youth don’t necessarily have the support networks that they have. So what are some tips that you can provide to really help nurture that fire within them, and to help sustain them through, to get them to where you are now?


Yeah, that’s a good question. As I said earlier, it always seemed to be that I was the only Islander wherever I was, in my undergrad, in my honours, in my medical school, and I really found that hard, not having any other Islanders around. When we interact, it’s just different to how we interact with each other to how we interact with other people. We just get each other, if that makes sense.

And so, I think my advice probably would be to try and find someone that you can have as a mentor, another Pacific Islander. And in saying that, I put my hand up for anyone that wants to have someone to talk to that if you’re thinking about doing medicine, or something, I’ll be happy to mentor someone through. Someone who’s been through it before, and an Islander would be ideal. And there are a few of us here in Australia, it’s just a matter of finding them. And I’m happy to, as I said, put my hand up to do that.

But just knowing that you’re not alone, because sometimes I felt really alone and not having anyone else really understand me, if that makes sense, because I had a lot of palangi, Asians, Indians, through my course, but they just wouldn’t understand what it was like to be an Islander. So having a mentor would be good.

As I said earlier, having balance, not just being a 100% about study, because you will burn yourself out. You need to have other outlets. So being involved in social groups outside of school, church groups.

Exercise is probably a big one I really neglected. Exercise will make you feel good and help your mind deal with the stress, and that’s something that I’ve started to pick up on now, while it was a bit neglected in med school, that I’ve really prioritized my exercise now.

And I guess staying firm in your faith knowing that if God gave you this dream to be a doctor or to be whatever dream he’s put in your heart, that he will equip you and help you to achieve that. And while at times you might think you want to give up…And I’m not going to lie, there were many times I wanted to give up, but you just have to keep your eyes on the prize and if you really want this, you can do it. I don’t know how else to say it, but yeah, don’t give up.



What does success look like to you? How would you define success within…It can be education, health, financial. What does success look like to you?


I think you can achieve all these good things, be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a millionaire with a successful business, but if you’re not a good person, and you don’t have good values and you don’t treat people well, I wouldn’t call that successful. I think having good values. You might achieve all these great things, but if you don’t treat people with kindness and respect, then I don’t call that success.

Some of the doctors I look up to now, here in Canberra, they are some of the kindest people that you’ll meet. Sometimes in medicine there’s a hierarchy and you’ve probably heard a lot about it with bullying and things within the medical community, between the senior doctors and junior doctors. But some of my senior doctors that I really look up to, they just treat people really well. They’re so successful in their jobs and careers, but they still know how to treat people with respect. And to me that’s successful, that’s what I aspire to be. I can be successful in my job, but also successful in being a kind person and a good person.

In terms of also for me being able to provide also for my family. Being a good person but being able to provide for my family, I want to be able to look after my parents as they get older and they retire and things. I think for me being able to give back to them, look after my family and my extended family is also I would say would be…I’d be like, “Oh yeah, I’ve made it,” I guess in that way, being able to help my parents and just repay those that helped me.

But the big one being, being a good person. It doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved, but being a good person is the main thing, I think.

  • ‘Akesa – Community Facilitator
  • Ama – Lashing Business Administrator & Marketing Coach
  • Annie – International & Community Development Specialist
  • Ashirah – University student
  • Cass – English Teacher, Writer, Project Manager, & President of the Victorian Kiribati Association
  • Chris – Field Officer (HR)
  • Christopher – Carpenter & Stonemason
  • Crofton – Visual Effects & Animation Specialist
  • David – App company CEO
  • Elisabeth – Teacher
  • Elvina – Building Services Mechanical Engineer
  • Fipe – Cacao Products Manufacturing Business Owner
  • Grace – Airline Customer Service Agent
  • Leki – Physiotherapist
  • Luisa – Registered Nurse
  • Malelega – Legal Assistant
  • Marita – Writer
  • Rose – Workplace Consultant
  • Sefita – Community Engagement Officer
  • Semisi – Lawyer
  • Talei – Lawyer & Community Engagement + Government Relations Consultant
  • Teisa – Medical Doctor
  • Tevita – IT Professional
  • Thom – Make-up Artist
  • Venna – Lashing Business Owner & Trainer
Scroll to Top