Shirley’s living her dream

Shirley Barakuta with her stepfather Philip Taylor and mum Sandra Pickering after her graduation. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Shirley Barakuta with her stepfather Philip Taylor and mum Sandra Pickering after her graduation. Picture: SUPPLIED.

There is an old saying by the late and longest serving fUS irst lady Eleanor Roosevelt “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.

This old saying depicts the life that Royal New Zealand Air Force’s (RNZAF) leading aircraftwoman (LAC) Shirley Barakuta has created with her dream of being in aviation with the RNZAF.

As a child Shirley, who was born and raised in Lautoka, knew that one day she would make her parents proud by becoming the first female family member to be part of the RNZAF No. 5 Squadron.

Her childhood dream of being in aviation came true when she completed her training with the air force and she is now serving as a logistics person in No.5 Squadron.

“I was born and raised in Lautoka and my mum is Sandra Pickering from Rewa and my dad is Samuela Barakuta from Vatulele. I went to school at Lautoka Central Primary School and Natabua High School.

“In 2007 we went to New Zealand and I started Year 10 at Onehunga High School in 2010 until Year 13,” she said.

“In 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in accounting and commercial law. This year in April, I will be graduating from Massey University with a Graduate Diploma in logistics and supply chain management and I’m hoping in the future to study for my Masters in Humanitarian Aid.

“I joined the Royal New Zealand air force in 2015 and this is my third year with the air force. I have always wanted to join the New Zealand Air Force because I love aviation, but I studied accounting which was quite different so that basically steered me to logistic trade.

“I’ve just completed my senior course in May last year and now I’m a LAC (leading aircraftwoman). In the air force we go through trade training, junior trade training and we conduct some base work.

“I was fortunate enough to always go back and work in Auckland and so now I’m stationed at 5 Squadron up in Auckland.”

She said working for the RNZAF had given her the opportunity to travel to places like Hawaii, parts of New Zealand and even Antarctica.

“Just before this trip to Fiji I went to Christchurch and was lucky enough to go down to Antarctica for two weeks which I thoroughly enjoyed,” she said.

“In the air force it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a female or male. I feel like, everyone is treated fairly. It’s not as challenging or different as people may think it may be in the military.

“I always loved the air force so I wasn’t being inspired by someone to be a part of it, but it was my grandfather who inspired me to chase after my dreams and to finish my education before doing anything else in life.

“My mum has been a very strong role model. She often pushes me to go to school even though at times I didn’t want too. My family has been a big part of my life especially in encouraging me to do things.

“I have an uncle who also served in 5 Squadron and he was a pilot and now me.”

She said Fiji was still home and she came back every year for a holiday or just to catch up with old friends and family.

She was so happy to be part of the 5 Squadron that visited Fiji during the RNZAF commemorative event.

“I was filled with pride to be able to bring people back home and tell them about Fiji and how it’s like living here and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have been given,” she said.

“My advice to young people would be to follow your dreams and if someone ever says ‘no’ to you, just keep asking the questions and if you want it hard enough, you will get there.”

Shirley now enjoys each day basically living the dream.

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