This month’s Graduate Profile introduces Evelyn Walford-Bourke. Evelyn is in the midst of her MA at Te Whare Wānanga o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui (Victoria University of Wellington) under the supervision of Dr Eli Elinoff and Dr Lorena Gibson.
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Whanganui and raised in Nelson, Wellington, and Hastings, before moving back to Wellington to attend Victoria. I completed a Bachelor of Arts triple-majoring in history, politics and anthropology before earning a BA (Honours) First Class in anthropology. My studies have shown me how interconnected the world is, how rapidly it is changing, and how urgently we need to start working on the challenges this presents for our future.
Currently I work as an academic support worker at Victoria and as a transcription typist at Isentia. Throughout my time at Victoria, I’ve also been involved with volunteer work as I worked towards the Victoria Plus Award and through the Victoria International Leadership Program. These gave me fantastic opportunities to get involved at Victoria, such as helping new students as a campus coach; working with students from China’s top universities in a Victoria International Summer Leadership Camp; and being able to get involved with university teaching through being a Student Learning Support Services notetaker and Te Pūtahi Atawhai mentor. Volunteer work also gave me amazing opportunities to apply my skills outside of university, like when I was able to spend a summer working as an assistant policy research intern for Volunteering New Zealand.
What drew you to anthropology?
As an undergraduate, anthropology drew me in because it offered a holistic way of studying the world where I could use the skills and knowledge I was developing across all the disciplines I was studying. Anthropology struggled to come to terms with its history, its place in the present, and with creating a vision for its future in a much more real way than politics or history. Being able to see a such a range of amazing research among staff members and how the discipline tackled impactful subjects, as well, meant anthropology quickly became the subject I looked forward to most.
What are you working on?
My MA, ‘The Construction and Contestation of the “Deserving” Beneficiary within New Zealand’s Welfare System’, examines how narratives around beneficiaries and the extent of poverty in New Zealand focus on “deservingness” while the effort both beneficiaries and service providers must put in within a complex landscape of government departments, NGOs, and bureaucratic regulation in order to address hardship goes unseen, obscuring the gaps between policy, practice and need. Through exploring beneficiaries’ experiences of navigating New Zealand’s welfare system to address their individual needs, I hope to find out how the narratives around beneficiaries and the mismatch between perception, policy, and daily lived reality affects efforts to address poverty in New Zealand, contextualizing the impact welfare reform has had on the experience of, and narrative around, hardship in New Zealand and linking in to anthropological discussions around the limitations of social policy and bureaucracy.
How have you found life as a graduate student?
I am loving life as a graduate student! Really being able to explore a topic in-depth – and one I have chosen – is fantastic. This year, there’s been so many opportunities to get involved within the school and with postgraduate life across the university more broadly. It’s really the kind of engagement I’ve been looking for my entire time at university.
What are your current influences?
Currently, honestly, mostly my friends. Having wildly broad-ranging conversations about my research and our personal experiences with welfare, negotiating our various opinions on welfare and just trying to explain my research has sent me off in some really interesting directions.