Power of knowledge highlighted Maori graduates celebrate

Celebrating success: Family members of a Massey University graduate perform a haka yesterday.
Celebrating success: Family members of a Massey University graduate perform a haka yesterday.

"Education normalises the abnormal, empowers the powerless and makes the ordinary extraordinary."

Massey University alumnus Dion Tuuta shared those words of wisdom in front of a crowd at the last of this week's six graduation ceremonies.

The service saw 55 Maori graduates don mortarboards and robes, including an impressive range of korowai cloaks, to have their degrees conferred.

Among them were seven academics who received their PhDs - Jane Brockelbank-Mullaney, Peter Hond, Acushla O'Carroll, Savern Reweti, Tupu Williams, Rebecca Wirihana and Johnson Witehira.

Tuuta, of Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama descent, shared his story of education and encouraged Maori to aim high.

"I'm the sort of person who never had a plan for himself, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up . . . I was one of the first in my family to undertake tertiary education, [and] many of you might be the same."

Tuuta completed a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, a Postgraduate Diploma in Humanities and a Masters of Arts in History.

He has held positions as a historian, policy and project managers and a writer with the Waitangi Tribunal and Ngati Mutunga iwi. He is now the chief executive of Taranaki-based farming company Paraninihi ki Waitotaraa.

"As you all sit there it's worth reflecting that the person you are today is not the person you're going to be in 10 years' time, just as the person you are today is probably not the same person who walked into this institution three or four years ago - life changes you," Tuuta said.

"Education has more power than any treaty settlement, any Lotto win, or any economic development strategy. Knowledge gives you true power to change your life and set in place a positive legacy for yourself, your family and your descendants.

"In the space of one generation the idea of attending university has changed from something foreign and outrageously frightening to something my 10-year-old just expects as part of growing up - which truly makes the whole thing worthwhile."

Manawatu Standard