New room for tauira Māori opened in Te Kura Toi Tangata

14 Oct 2021

A new room dedicated to tauira from Te Kura Toi Tangata, School of Education, has opened giving Māori students from Te Kura Toi Tangata a much-needed space dedicated to Kaupapa Māori.

Te Aahuru Moowai was officially opened on Wednesday October 12, but has been in planning since 2019, when the then Faculty of Education’s ITS Department was relocated.

Pirimi Roberts, an Executive member of Tūmata Kōkiri, the Māori Student Association for Education, who gifted the room’s name, says Te Aahuru Moowai means a safe haven or a safe place of shelter.

Renowned Māori artist and Lecturer Donn Ratana prepared the artwork for Te Aahuru Moowai. The design depicts a kanohi (face), but also two people performing the “hongi”. There is also artistic representation of waka, winds and an important connection to the University Wharenui Te Ao Hurihuri.

Artwork adorns the entry to the room by renowned Māori artist and Lecturer Donn Ratana. The design on the doorway when shut depicts a kanohi (face), but also two people performing a hongi. There is also artistic representation of waka, winds and an important connection to the University Wharenui Te Ao Hurihuri.

As Te Kura Toi Tangata has sought to lift academic achievement and improve the recruitment, retention and completion rates of Māori students, the need for a space for Māori students has long been a goal, says Teaching Fellow, Joshua Wetere.

Joshua started his own journey at the University as a student studying between 2016 and 2018. As a student, he says he recognised the need for a space for Māori students and followed this up when he became a Teaching Fellow.

“When Māori move into spaces, like tertiary education, there is often a feeling that we need to leave our culture at the gate. To support success amongst our Māori students we need better transitions into the academic space. We need places that reflect our student’s identity and where they can be themselves,” says Joshua.

He quotes research by Ann Milne and her book, “Coloring in the White Spaces: Reclaiming Cultural Identity in Whitestream Schools.”(2016)

The book examines the struggle against racial and cultural inequality in educational systems and presents a case study of a New Zealand school and its community’s determination to resist these alienating environments.

“There has been much research and literature prepared but what we haven’t really seen is the implementation of this work. The creation of spaces like Te Aahuru Moowai is a tangible transition,” says Joshua.

Development of the room predates the University’s Taskforce report, but it does support the current work of Te Aurei, the implementation of the Taskforce's report (2021) across all aspects of the University.

“To transform a community there needs to be outcomes for that community and there is still a long way to go but the University is making progress and spaces like this are a transition,” says Joshua.

He is careful to point out he is only one person who has influenced the development of the space and a key part of the project has been engagement with Māori students themselves. Paihere o te Pūoho: Māori Mentor coordinator Shirley Tuteao, Māori artist Donn Ratana, Te Wānanga Toi Tangata Strategic Manager Tania Heke, Te Wānanga Toi Tangata Pro VC Office Sarah Cowley and more recently, Kaiurungi and Associate Dean Māori, Karaitiana Tamatea, have all played key roles alongside tauira, who have been the driving force.

“The vision for the room comes from a collective vision but it is a space where our Māori students have autonomy,” says Joshua.

Karaitiana says the room is also a space in response to what’s happening in New Zealand’s wider education system, recognising the demands that will be placed on Māori students graduating from the school into the future.

“Our graduates are going to be in hot demand in the future and as they study with us, they need a place where they can talk and think freely. A place that embraces Mātauranga Māori, Kaupapa Māori, reo and tikanga Māori and where they can be Māori,” says Karaitiana.

Whaea Shirley Tuteao explained that the booking of the room will happen in collaboration with Te Wānanga Toi Tangata administration, Waikato Māori Student Union and Te Wāhanga Pūoho Māori Student Mentoring office.

This research aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Good Health and Well-being Reduced Inequalities

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