Kaitaia woman Ciaran Torrington will make good use of the $5000 Far North AMP regional scholarship she won on Tuesday evening.

The award, she said after the function at Te Ahu, would help her to continue her work in the community as a trauma therapist specialising in counselling and rehabilitating victims of sexual abuse.

Ms Torrington said her drive to change attitudes and help abuse survivors was born of personal experience.

At the age of 16 she dropped out of school, left home, and was on a benefit. Nine years later she began what she called her "fight back against the impact sexual violence had on my life", and embarked upon a lengthy period of study that resulted in her gaining a masters of psychology degree last year.


She became a member of the Kaitaia Business and Professional Women after winning the club's Second Chance study award in 2009. She is now the club's vice-president.

Last year, with the club's backing, she project managed the 'I am the One in 4' campaign to highlight the plight of those who have experienced sexual abuse in the community.

"There were increasing concerns about condoned violence within the community and the lack of support for victims, and how this directly impacts on poverty, suicides, violence and crime in Kaitaia," she said.

It was a high-profile campaign that culminated in the club winning the Anne Todd Issues Award from the International Federation of Business and Professional Women in April last year.

Now Ms Torrington's ambition is to attend the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York in 2018, to present her concepts and programmes internationally.

Two other women, Dominique Heileson (Kaeo) and Sarah Sorensen (Kerikeri), made the final for this year's regional AMP award.

Ms Heileson works with leather to create bespoke designer handbags under the Eekie label. She operates from a rural shed on her neighbour's property, and her bags are already creating attention. She has exhibited at a number of craft markets, and is selling from her website.

She said she launched her enterprise for two reasons - to create an international business able to employ local people in a community where opportunities to work were limited, and as part of her rehabilitation programme following a brain injury she sustained in a fall two years ago.


Ms Sorensen is involved with Positive Deviance Approaches (PDA), a concept that looks at cost-effective, culturally appropriate and sustainable ways of community-driven problem-solving.

She described the concept, which was well established overseas but little-known in New Zealand or Australia, as a self-help philosophy rather than a hand-out mentality.

Ms Sorensen arrived in New Zealand from Zimbabwe in 2002, after her family's farm was confiscated by the government. Her ambition is to gain practical PDA experience and expertise in the countries where it is operating and bring that knowledge back to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Tony Walker, from AMP Dynamics in Kerikeri, described the finalists as the cream of a very good crop. "We had 130 applications this year, and the hardest task was deciding on three who would make it through to the final because the standard was so high," he said.

The winners of the AMP national scholarship awards will be announced later this month.