Whanau role in student achievements

DION TUUTA
Last updated 05:00 19/05/2014

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OPINION: Kia ora koutou

One of the of the privileges of being the chief executive of an organisation like Parininihi ki Waitotara Incorporation is the periodic invitations to participate in special events. Such was the case on Thursday when I attended the Hui Whakahonore Potaetanga Akonga Maori - Massey University's celebration to honour Maori graduates.

The Maori graduation ceremony is Massey's concluding event in a week-long celebration of academic achievement. And over the course of the week just over 1200 students participated in the graduation process, crossing the threshold from graduand to graduate to receive their degree or diploma and shake the hand of Massey Chancellor Chris Kelly.

An interesting and impressive point announced by Massey Vice Chancellor Steve Maharey at the ceremony was that more than 400 of Massey's graduates for the week identified as Maori. And whereas the formal graduation ceremony necessarily limits the number of family members who can attend the capping ceremony, Massey's Maori graduation gives students wishing to attend the opportunity to bring as many of their whanau as they wish to celebrate their achievement. In this sense the Maori graduation is not just about the student - but also about recognition of their whanau and the key role they have played in supporting the graduate.

Over 50 Maori graduates attended the ceremony with friends and whanau from all over the country and Taranaki Maori was well represented both in the graduates being honoured and in the staff and council of the university. In recognition of the large number of Taranaki Maori being honoured on the day Pro- Chancellor Michael Ahie (Nga Ruahine) delivered the address on behalf of Massey's Governing Council. The Pro-Chancellor is the Deputy Chairman of the Massey Governing Council.

In contrast to a normal graduation which is quite subdued, a Maori graduation is very loud. It is full of karanga, waiata and haka as whanau express their love and pride for their whanau member who has achieved academic excellence.

These emotions cannot be contained on a day such as this - and neither should they be.

I was moved numerous times watching Maori graduates of all ages standing on stage dressed in their ceremonial gowns while their families and friends honoured them in their own way.

Seven scholars were honoured for work in achieving their Doctorates in Philosophy (PhD) and of these hard working and dedicated souls three were descendants of Taranaki tribal groups including Dr Ruakere Hond (Taranaki/Ngati Ruanui/Te Whanau a Apanui), Dr Acushla O'Carroll (Nga Ruahine/Ngati Ruanui/Te Atiawa) and Dr Rebecca Wirihana (Nga Rauru Kitahi/Te Aupouri/Te Rarawa).

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Hond investigated sustainable health outcomes facilitated by Maori language revitalisation initiatives. His doctorate thesis proposes using the term speaker community to identify social groups who actively manage domains of language immersion as the enactment of their secure cultural identity. The formation of such groups is critical for achieving success in language revitalisation and supporting the fulfilment of self-determined notions of wellbeing.

O'Carrioll investigated the tensions that Maori face as they negotiate virtual spaces and navigate new territories of social networking sites, highlighting the pressures of kanohi ki te kanohi (being face to face). The study examined issues that Maori must grapple with in order to guide social network usage in cultural contexts that consider kanohi ki te kanohi values and the future of marae (gathering places).

Wirihana's research sought to ascertain how 13 diverse Maori women leaders' life experiences facilitated their leadership roles. She aimed to identify how these findings could help us raise our children to be healthy, vital leaders. She concluded that intergenerational transmission of knowledge using traditional Maori narratives nurture leadership within Maori communities.

Each of these outstanding individuals serves as an example of the academic excellence Taranaki Maori are achieving and stand as role models to those of us considering any form of education.

As part of the ongoing celebration and recognition of their work Hond and O'Carroll gave presentations on their studies at Parihaka the following Saturday to friends, whanau and members of the community thereby spreading knowledge and inspiration to those that attended.

And while these Doctors of Philosophy are worthy of promotion, the achievements of their fellow graduates in other degrees were no less impressive or worthy of celebration.

So congratulations to Nopera Rikihana (Nga Rauru Kitahi/Ngati Raukawa/Ngati Toa) - Bachelor of Business Studies, Sanna-Marie Rongonui (Nga Ruahine/Ngati Ruanui) - Bachelor of Business Studies, Ariki Tamou (Nga Rauru Kitahi/Ngati Raukawa) - Bachelor of Business Studies, Haymon Carr (Nga Ruahine/Ngati Toa) - Bachelor of Information Sciences, Echo Herewini (Nga Rauru Kitahi/Ngati Maru) - Bachelor of Science, Mereana Hooker (Nga Ruahine) - Bachelor of Arts, Manu Bennett (Nga Rauru Kitahi/Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi) - Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Primary/Diploma in Education Studies, and Daniel Fake (Nga Ruahine/Ngati Ruanui/Ngati Kahungunu) - Bachelor of Sport and Exercise.

As I said in my speech on the day - you are all extraordinary - and serve as examples of what every Maori student can achieve with self-belief, hard work and whanau support.

Congratulations to you all. Mauriora

- Taranaki Daily News

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