New University of Otago staff member Dr Freya
Higgins-Desbiolles talks to reporter Vaughan Elder about moving
to Dunedin and her O-Week plans.
Dr Freya Higgins-Desbiolles is impressed by what she has
seen of Dunedin since moving to the city last month to take
up a job at the University of Otago. Photo by Peter
Q: When did you move to Dunedin and where were you
A: I moved to Dunedin in early January. I came from
Adelaide, where I lived for 17 years and worked as a lecturer
at the University of South Australia. Prior to that, I
developed a background of work and study in various countries
such as Tonga, England and North Carolina, United States,
where I grew up.
Q: Why did you make the decision to move here?
A: It wasn't easy leaving Adelaide after living there so
long, but the attraction of Dunedin was the friendly,
talented and world-class team in the department of tourism at
the university. I had met individuals working in the
department at international conferences and was familiar with
the exciting work being developed by the group. In the
broader context, I have always regarded New Zealand as a
special country from both its environmental beauty and
amazing Maori culture.
Q: What position did you take up at the university?
A: I am serving as a senior lecturer responsible for
teaching undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the field
of hospitality. I will also be continuing research work in
critical tourism and hospitality studies and hope to expand
my knowledge and experience of indigenous tourism in the New
Zealand context. In Adelaide, I was responsible for an
innovative teaching and research portfolio in indigenous
tourism which featured collaborative partnerships with South
Australian Aboriginal communities. I hope to explore links
between interested Maori communities and Aboriginal
communities and foster learning on using tourism for social
and community wellbeing.
Q: What did you know about the city before you came
A: I must confess I knew little about the city before my
arrival, but I heard that it is a very beautiful and liveable
city from my colleagues who attended the Australian and New
Zealand leisure studies conference here a little over a year
ago. This shows how conferences can serve as showcases for
cities like Dunedin that feature a quality of life long lost
Q: What are your impressions of Dunedin so far?
A: I have been enjoying a lovely discovery of the people
and places of Dunedin. It is one of the friendliest places I
have lived. I am also amazed at the beauty of the coastline
and the marine species that are a feature of the place. I am
finding some comfort in some shared attributes with Adelaide,
which is making my transition easier and is opening up some
thoughts for comparative research.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your
first year at the university?
A: The first year is always a challenge, but I look
forward to learning as much as I hope to share with my
students and colleagues.
Q: Will you be going to any O-Week events?
A: The O-Week programme has a great variety of events and
it seems an exciting way to welcome students to campus. I
like the music of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, but I think
they've sold out. However, the International Food Festival on
Saturday is a definite point of attraction. I will be
teaching an undergraduate paper on events and conventions
management so I can call it part of my lesson-planning.