News Release

What Anzac Day Means for a Medical Student in Dunedin

Māori Battalion Scholarship winner reflects on blessings of freedoms won

Isaac Smiler, pauses with a commemorative wreath for the 28th Māori Battalion at the ANZAC Day Dawn Parade in Dunedin. He was the 2021 recipient of the scholarship from the battalion. New Zealand, April 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

It was dawn in Dunedin, New Zealand, when Isaac Smiler and his wife, Ngaru, began a day of remembrance for the ANZAC’s, Australia New Zealand Army Corps, who gave their lives and fought for freedom for their countries.

Of particular interest to Isaac, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a special unit, the 28th Māori Battalion.

He was recently awarded the Ngārimu VC 28th Māori Battalion Scholarship to support his studies in medicine and surgery at Otago University in Dunedin.  

For Isaac, medicine was the perfect blend of his love for science and his love for people, which he discovered while serving as a missionary for two years in the Philippines.

“I learned the Cebuano language on my mission and came home and realised I didn’t know my own language, so I decided to learn te reo Māori.”

As president of the Māori medical student association, he thought it would be important for other medical students to learn te reo in order to better treat Māori patients. He organised funding to have a teacher hired, so medical students at Otago who wanted to learn could do so at no cost to themselves.

Later on Anzac Day, Isaac joined the Te Roopū Māori (Māori Students’ Association) kapa haka group to pay tribute as part of the Otago University Student Associations Anzac Day Service, “honouring those who fought, valuing peace.”

“My parents would take us to the dawn services to remember those who fought for us,” said Isaac. “We always remembered our great grandfather, Stewart Rose, who fought in the 23rd Battalion during World War II in Italy and Africa.

“I was old enough to know him and listen to the stories he told about his experiences in the war. On this day I remember him and others who left New Zealand to serve.”

He feels a strong obligation to perform well. “The scholarship comes with a sense of responsibility to serve with the same commitment and to work at a standard of excellence that they who served displayed.” 

When asked about the requirements for the scholarship, Isaac said, “I found it easy to relate to the characteristics of the soldiers of the Māori Battalion. Their principles and traits are things I learned in the gospel of Jesus Christ—principles I have been taught since I was a youth, and on my mission—courage to do right, caring for and helping others, community service, and leadership.”

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