Genesis Te Kuru-White: championing Māori education and cultural legacy

Genesis Te Kuru-White earned a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Language and Indigenous Studies at Waikato, driven by a commitment to his people's future.

15 Apr 2024

Genesis Te Kuru-White (Ngāti Pūkeko, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Manawa, Te Tini o Meketu) doesn’t see his journey at the University of Waikato as personal; it’s deeply rooted in a commitment to his people.  

Genesis Te Kuru-White

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Language/Te Reo Māori & Māori and Indigenous Studies, Genesis views his degree as an emblem of resilience and to set an example for the next generation for his iwi and hapū back home. 

“The times that we’re living in now and the work we’re doing now, it’s not for us, it’s for our children," says Genesis, a father of three.  

Born and raised in Whakatāne, Genesis left school at age 14 and has continued to face challenges associated with ADHD, particularly reading and writing.  

“There was no education between now and then that taught me the fundamentals of education,” he recalls. “Before I came to University. I didn’t know what an essay or referencing was - I had to learn the art of study before I studied." 

Encouraged by his partner, Bonnie Maihi, a PhD student researching Ka Hao te Rangatahi - Development Pathways for Rangatahi Māori growing up in New Zealand Gang Culture within the Faculty of Māori & Indigenous Studies, Genesis initially completed a Certificate of University Preparation in 2021 to better familiarise himself with tertiary education. 

“If I can do it, you can do it. There were plenty of times I wanted to give up and walk away, it’s not natural turf for me here, it’s not natural sitting in a classroom to listen, read and write. 

“But once I set my mind to something, I will do whatever it takes to get across the line.” 

For Genesis, graduation is a moment to express gratitude to his whānau, friends and tutors who stood by him.  

It’s an honour and privilege to be sitting here with great minds and great people. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. 

Genesis not only obtained knowledge for himself but also shared it with other students by tutoring the Ngā Iho Matua: Māori Philosophy (MAORI202) paper. 

I cried when I submitted my final assignment. It was 2am, I was lying on my bed in the dark, and all I said was ‘I did it Dad’. 

His three-year degree echoes the aspirations set by his late father, Whitiaua Sonny White, a Black Power leader who envisioned a brighter future for their community through education and cultural revitalisation. 

“He established a 100-year road map that changed the way our young were raised. We are committed to focusing all our energy into developing and nurturing our children using te ao Māori and education.” 

Now 30 years into the road map, Genesis says they’re well on their way to setting the stage for future generations.   

“It redefines us, makes it safe for us and our people.” 

In his message to others, Genesis encourages the importance of knowing one’s purpose.  

Know your why – know it and understand it. It’s this that will get you through the hard times.

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