Jamie Rolleston

Iwi: Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāi Te Rangi

Qualifications: BA, PGDip, Master of Arts (Te Reo Māori)

I was born and bred in Rotorua, and attended Western Heights High School. After high school I was an exchange student in Brazil, where I learned Portuguese. However, the experience of learning a foreign language made me realise that there was a huge gap in my life, and that was my complete lack of ability to speak te reo Māori. I remember thinking that no foreign language would ever matter if I couldn’t speak my own.

When I came back to Aotearoa, I went straight from the airport to Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato to enrol in Te Tohu Paetahi, the one year full time Māori language immersion programme. Prior to entering Te Tohu Paetahi, I had no reo other than the basics like ‘Kia ora’, ‘kai’, ‘wharepaku’, etc. My time with Te Tohu Paetahi was life changing, and since learning te reo Māori with Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato I have seen the world in a new light.

After Te Tohu Paetahi, as an undergraduate student I struggled to stay focused at university, which I believe is something many students, especially Māori students experience. Living away from your whānau support systems can be challenging, and it was without a doubt a mighty effort for me to push through till the end. Although it took me longer than it should have, and I fell down more times than I care to remember, with perseverance and the right support I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, followed by a Post Graduate Diploma and I am currently in the process of writing my Master’s thesis entirely in te reo Māori from my home base in Rotorua. It just goes to show that persevering pays off. Kia Manawa tītī.

This year I was the recipient of the Te Kotahi Research Institute’s research excellence scholarship as well as a member of Te Āhurutanga- Māori student leadership programme. I am also working as a mentor and tutor in Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao (Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development). However, the greatest gift that has come from my time at Waikato is my language, which I can now teach to my baby son. To me, that’s not just personal transformation, but whānau transformation. What could be better than that?

My future aspiration is to establish more avenues for te reo Māori learning in my home town, Rotorua. I believe that in order for our language to survive, it has to be seen, heard and spoken everywhere, by as many people as possible. My goal is to make that happen, through entrepreneurship, creativity and collaboration. I would also love to one day achieve my PhD through Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, to continue my lifelong learning journey.