Skip to main content

Timaru student eyes up Defence Force career after taste of Navy life

Niamh Faith-O’Connell has always wanted to join the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and now the 17-year-old has been able to experience military life first-hand.

26 April, 2024

She represented Timaru’s Craighead Diocesan School as one of 40 students from around the country who attended the latest School to Seas wahine camp at Devonport Naval Base.

“I’ve always been interested in a career in Defence and originally I wanted to be a pilot,” Niamh said.

“Then I found out about the Navy so I applied to School to Seas. I haven’t got much experience in the maritime industry, but I’ve loved it.”

The week-long camp aims to spark young women’s interest in Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) based careers - both within the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and the wider marine industry - and break down barriers and stereotypes.

In particular, it helps tackle misconceptions about life for women in the military and women at sea specifically.

“It’s completely changed my perspective and opened up a lot of opportunities and options for me,” Niamh said.

During the camp, participants took part in a range of hands-on STEM activities including building an underwater robot, and gained an insight into what life is like on a warship and the many trades on offer in the Navy.

Photo 1 v2
Photo 2
Photo 4

“I study sciences at school including biology, chemistry, physics and calculus, but they’re all very academic subjects. I’m interested in the way the world works, how we’ve been shaped and the way we are in the world,” she said. 

“The camp has amplified the STEM subjects, and all the women who work in STEM. It shows me that it’s very achievable for women.”

In her final year of school, Niamh has big plans for after she finishes.

“I plan on working in Taupō as a parachute packer, then attending Camp America before finishing the year working on the ski fields in Japan,” she said.

Beyond that, Niamh plans to join the Defence Force in a medic role in the first intake of January 2026.

“I’m unsure what service I’ll join as yet, but it’s been such an amazing experience,” she said.

“It’s built on my love for the Defence Force and made me want to sign up as soon as I can.”