Rawiri Ratahi and Nick Parata have put hours of love and consultation into preparing to welcome students in.
New Zealand may be small but moving from one end of the country to the other can be an intimidating way to start life as an independent adult. This is exactly why a group of tauira who whakapapa to Taranaki have taken action to help future generations by looking back on previous ones.
Te Kāhui Rangatahi o Taranaki ki Ōtepoti (TKRTO) is a new group focussed on Taranaki youth based in Otago. Founders Rawiri Ratahi and Nick Parata have put hours of love and consultation into preparing to welcome students in.
Rawiri explains the group’s vision statement is based on a pūrākau of significance to Taranaki.
“The pūrākau of Ngarue tells of a son's desire to reconnect with his father, his whakapapa and his mōunga. We use this pūrākau as symbolism of a journey of reconnection, we see our roopū as the dart of Whare-matangi retracing the footsteps of our tupuna as we embark on our journey of (re)connection.
Originally from Taranaki himself, the master’s student is passionate about the history of Taranaki students who have passed through Otago’s doors.
“We are also looking to continue the academic success of our people here at Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou. Our most notable academic to come through this University is the great Tā Rangi Hīroa, the first Māori doctor to graduate from Otago’s Medical School. A man from Urenui came to Otago Medical School, graduated and went on to become a revered leader in every venture he undertook.
“This inspires us to continue to strive for success and set forth on our own trailblazing path. Which then brings us to our aspirations. We want students from Taranaki to feel comfortable and proud to come to the University of Otago knowing we have a legacy here paved for us by a legend of Ngāti Mutunga and Taranaki as a whole. It is our hope by continuing to honour the legacy of our esteemed tupuna of Taranaki (Ngāti Mutunga) our tauira can continue to aspire for great things academically, and perhaps in turn can inspire other rangatahi from Taranaki to come down and study here at Otago.”
Honours student Nick Parata shares the significance of making these connections and the special significance Otago has to Taranaki iwi.
"It holds strong values for me as I want to support tauira coming through University who may have had a similar story of growing up away from their whakapapa and Māori culture. I want them to not feel w'akamā (shame) about not growing up in a Māori rich community, rather to use these learnings to help and support others who may feel the same.”
“Rawiri has moved down from Waitara, a small town in Taranaki, to study at Otago University. TKRTO is a way for him to reconnect back home and learn more about his ancestry and upbringing.
“As for me, I was born and raised in Dunedin and have never ventured up to Taranaki. However this has not affected my outlook on TKRTO. It holds strong values for me as I want to support tauira coming through University who may have had a similar story of growing up away from their whakapapa and Māori culture. I want them to not feel w'akamā (shame) about not growing up in a Māori rich community, rather to use these learnings to help and support others who may feel the same.”
The group have set up four values which they plan to focus on and will help with navigating the direction their ventures go in. Hononga: to reconnect tauira to eachother, their whakapapa and Ōtepoti. Kotahitanga: to unite tauira as one under mōunga Taranaki. Kaitiakitanga: to protect their history and stories. Whakawhanaungatanga: to provide tauira a space to reconnect and integrate with other tauira from Taranaki.
This year TKRTO plan to start meeting on a regular basis and are already looking for students to join them.
“For Te Kāhui Rangatahi o Taranaki ki Ōtepoti to succeed we want to provide content that is relevant, appropriate, and pertinent to students’ employment and academic ambitions,” Rawiri says.
“We want to aid and assist the process of (re)connection, host educational wānanga, social events, and commemorations.”
You can find the team on Facebook or email Rawiri and Nick for more information on getting involved.
Kōrero by Internal Communications Adviser, Chelsea McRae