Saving a life, being arrested and held in jail in pursuit of getting information and the truth out there, has been all part of the job for journalist Barbara Dreaver, the 1News’ Pacific correspondent for TVNZ. Last month Dreaver was named Reporter of the Year 2022 at the New Zealand Television Awards.
has over 30 years’ experience in journalism. After completing her journalism
studies in New Zealand, in 1990 she moved to Rarotonga, initially as a reporter
for Cook Islands News and then as co-owner and editor of Cook Islands Press.
Dreaver in an earlier interview credited
Cook Islands for moulding her into the journalist she is today. This is where she
learnt how to break stories and also learned respect and how news events aren’t
just black and white.
“People put trust in you to tell a story
and certainly in a small community like Rarotonga, that trust is really
important,” says Dreaver.
Rarotonga was also a steep learning curve,
and she gives credit to former Cook Islands News editors Lawrence Bailey and
Alex Sword, who she says were great teachers.
“Good journalism aims for three things –
to inform, to tell the truth even when people don’t want to hear it, and giving
people a voice when they wouldn’t usually have one,” says Dreaver.
As for receiving the TVNZ award, Dreaver
says: “It was a surreal moment and I felt incredibly proud that my Pacific
stories had won a major mainstream award. It felt like a win for the Pacific.”
“Awards are great but the best thing has
been seeing how my stories resulted in policy changes, charges being laid and
stopping bad situations happening to more people. That’s what really counts.”
Returning to New Zealand in the late 90s, she
worked in a variety of jobs including the NZ Listener, National Business Review
and Radio New Zealand.
In 2002, she started at TVNZ and was made
Pacific correspondent in 2003, a role she has held since and is well known for,
reporting from in and around the Pacific with relentless
portfolio of work includes revealing the appalling treatment of Pasifika in New
Zealand during Covid, the Dawn Raids apology, exposing and shutting down the
perpetrators of several scams, and investigating a company that pressured a
seriously injured worker to lie to WorkSafe. Then there were exclusive
international investigations, and making the world’s first live crosses from
Tokelau and Kiribati.
This year, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Minister
for Broadcasting and Media, Kris Faafoi, appointed Dreaver to the nine-member
Establishment Board to lead the work on creating a new public media entity in
People who inspire her the most are
everyday people who have had to overcome or come to terms with great adversity
or tragedy, Dreaver says.
“The bravest of people – like terminal
cancer patient, 15-year-old Tae Kami, who inspired a nation with her advocacy
of other children with cancer before she died.
“Auckland’s Pasifika health and welfare
sector who worked tirelessly to save lives during Covid-19, its ordinary people
doing extraordinary things…very hard to beat.”
Dreaver has won multiple awards and some
of the stories she has covered have brought her to tears.
Particularly challenging for Dreaver throughout
her career has been peoples’ grief. Covering the measles outbreak tragedy (2019)
in Samoa where more than 80 people, mostly children, died was extremely tough.
“Seeing so many dying and dead children
was something I will carry forever, but at the end of the day it’s not about me
and I have a job to do. So that’s what gets you through that.”
The Pacific correspondent has persevered
through nasty encounters like being been detained in Fiji and Nauru which she
says was unpleasant, having a gun pointed at her head, death threats and
“But staying calm and focused on what my
job and role is, helps,” says Dreaver.
With 20 years under her belt in television
media broadcasting, she says the best thing about television reporting is the
power of pictures and bringing the Pacific into the public’s homes.
“It’s a powerful opportunity to show New
Zealand a slice of the Pacific beyond the region being just a holiday
destination. And having the ability to make a difference and challenge in order
to enact change where it’s needed is why I do what I do.”
Dreaver has also designed and run a
broadcasting training programme across the region through Pasifika TV, which
she says has been great as she can pass on knowledge to younger ones.
And doing a job which takes you all over
the Pacific and outdoors to wherever a story may be has its memorable experiences,
Dreaver one of these moments was in June 2010 when she and cameraman Mike
Fitzgerald were on assignment in Bora Bora, Tahiti.
The pair played key roles in saving a
Japanese man’s life, using their lifesaving skills on
the man when he almost drowned after a snorkelling accident. He eventually
came out of a 14-day coma.
Another highlight for Dreaver was the
funeral of King Taufa’ahau Tupou of Tonga which was steeped in tradition.
“It was absolutely jaw-dropping and etched
in tradition. I knew I was witnessing history being made,” she said.
Exposing a massive US adoption scam in
Samoa involving dozens of children who weren’t actually orphans – and as a
result the FBI arrested those responsible, was also memorable.
Dreaver has travelled to every Pacific
Forum country and appreciates the exquisiteness of each place.
“The beauty of some of the more
remote/hard to access places is unparalleled,” she says.
Dreaver offers the following pearls of
wisdom for budding journalists: “Be brave, tell the truth and understand that
people quite often don’t want to hear it; know what motivates you, learn not to
care what people think of you and be thorough in your research.”