People | Grandma’s post-Winston trauma inspires Dr Moleen’s research

Moleen Nand (left) with her maternal grandmother and mum. Picture: SUPPLIED

Witnessing the trauma her 80-year-old cane grower grandmother experienced after the devastating impact of Tropical Cyclone Winston was Moleen Monita Nand’s inspiration to pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy research on policy options for climate change loss and damage.

What better way could she finish her latest educational accomplishment than to be awarded the John Lewis Prize (Gold Medal) for Excellence in Doctoral Research in Geography by the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia.

Like any other dedicated woman focused on setting another benchmark in her academic life, her journey was no easy feat.

If one thing, her emphasis on success formed the cornerstone to this triumph.

After graduating with a Degree in Environmental Science from the University of the South Pacific, Dr Moleen completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Climate Change and afterwards enrolled in a Master of Science in Climate Change program.

She then started her PhD program in November of 2018, funded by Adelaide Scholarship International – a scholarship awarded to international students of high calibre to study at the University of Adelaide – among the most prominent universities in Australia.

Earlier this month, she was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy degree for her thesis titled ‘Policy options for climate change loss and damage: A case study on Fijian agriculture’.

The gold medal is awarded to the student who made a significant theoretical or empirical contribution to geography through the completion of a PhD degree.

“Using qualitative research and policy analysis, my PhD thesis aimed to understand farmers’ lived experiences of climatic stressors and climate change loss and damage, and evaluate opportunities for policy, planning, and funding mechanisms for climate change loss and damage,” Dr Moleen explained.

“The research aim was achieved by examining social-ecological systems vulnerability, including consideration of cultural, social, economic, and political dimensions, climate change adaptation, climate change loss and damage from slow-onset (drought) and sudden events (cyclones).

“My nani (grandmother – maternal) is my inspiration for this research. She is more than 80 years old and has been a sugarcane farmer all her life, and after seeing the destruction brought about by TC Winston, she was traumatised and fell ill.”

Dr Moleen was able to document similar experience faced by local farmers in her studies and how they battled climatic events to keep their farms intact.

A former scholar of Bhawani Dayal Arya College, Dr Moleen had always been fascinated with science from a young age.

Her interest in climate change and environmental sustainability peaked in the early university years.

She also attributed her interest in science to her late father, Edu Nand, who was a Math enthusiast.

“My father passed away when I was in my final year of undergrad studies. When he got sick, my brother had to leave his studies and look after the family.

“My brother had really big shoes to fill. The responsibility of the family fell on his shoulders.”

She shared that his only brother Monish, a former cameraman with Fiji TV, shouldered his responsibilities with great diligence.

Because of this, she was able to secure scholarships and pursue further studies.

“I believe my main motivation was my passion for this subject. I wanted to understand how individuals and communities experience
climate change impacts, implement adaptation measures, and minimise or deal with loss and damage.

“But understanding this issue was not enough. I also wanted to examine policies and see how the Government is addressing the issue of climate change loss and damage.”

Dr Moleen’s PhD journey was no smooth ride.

She came to Fiji for fieldwork just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and was not able to return to Adelaide.

Studying remotely from Fiji for two and a half years was not easy because she was separated from the proper educational setting in Australia.

At the same time, she was separated from her husband who was in Adelaide.

She finally returned to Adelaide in December 2021 and had a year to complete her studies.

“My advice to those thinking of chasing their dreams is that – it is never too late, just keep believing in yourself. Do not be discouraged by struggles. Be determined.

“The road to success may be difficult but you will get there eventually.”

A proud Dr Moleen has dedicated her thesis to her late father, her maternal grandmother and to all the farmers of Fiji.

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