Tangi Walker

EmpowermentNZ - Te Puke, Bay of Plenty

Key Info

Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga

  • Bachelor of Social Work
  • Social Work

When Tangi left school at 15 she had no plans to return. Originally from Hastings, of Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga descent, she and childhood sweetheart John both worked in the freezing works industry. After the Whakatū closure in the late 80s that saw Tangi lose her job, John resigned from his, accepted an offer of farming work in Te Puke and the couple moved to the Bay of Plenty.

They married in 1988 and started a family soon after. While bringing up their family Tangi worked a variety of jobs - admin, share-milking, orchard work and at a supermarket.  She had her first educational challenge when she home-schooled her kids “out of necessity because the schools were too full at the time.” Tangi continued teaching her children right up to tertiary level, when they each peeled off to do their studies.

The day Tangi took one of her sons to enrol into the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology Tioriori (music) course was a significant one for her. While in the student services office she saw a flyer for Kahikatea (Social Services certificate) and something clicked. She thought, “Why can’t I can do that?” Turned out, she could. She completed the six-month course and applied to study the University of Waikato Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).

With the unwavering support of her husband John and family, Tangi juggled home life with student life. She admits it wasn’t a walk in the park.

“The first year of the degree, I felt like I was in a washing machine. I had to learn the academic speak, which was like another language. I would write down things I didn’t understand and Google them later. Google was my saviour,” she laughs.

After graduating in 2017, Tangi started working for Auckland-based organisation, Christians Against Poverty (CAP), when it set up a new service in Te Puke. As debt centre manager, Tangi facilitated a free debt counselling service for clients based out of the Te Puke Baptist Church.

She says the degree has held her in good stead professionally and she felt well-prepared going into her first job in the sector.

“The Bachelor of Social Work prepared me to look through a social work lens which broadened my understanding and allowed me to explore why, when and what may be needed when trying to solve a problem,” she says.

Last year, Tangi took on a new role as a social worker with Te Puke’s EmpowermentNZ. She recently introduced a R2R (Ready to Rent) programme to help people struggling to secure rental accommodation in Te Puke. The programme, previously established and run by the Tauranga Salvation Army, covers a range of areas including how to be a good tenant, how to have a healthy home, rights and responsibilities, how much money is needed and how to be application-ready.

“At the end of the programme [participants] get a certificate that doesn’t guarantee them a house, but it shows when they go to find one that they’re invested, that they’ve taken the time to educate themselves.”

Happy in her work, Tangi recommends the Bachelor of Social Work to anyone looking to work in a helping profession and especially encourages mature students.

“It’s scary but then you realise that everyone is scared. It’s not all school leavers, there are lots of adult students too.”

Tangi believes that to be successful as a social work student and out in the field, there are some key qualities that individuals should possess.

“Having respect for others, being a genuine person, and having the right attitude where you want to see and influence a positive change in people’s lives are essential,” she says. “Also, being able to build good networks with organisations is valuable to be able to help and support people to move forward.”

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