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Tauira Māori honoured in emotional ceremonies

Wednesday 23 May 2018 10:11pm

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Graduands at one of this month's Māori pre-graduation ceremonies (from left) Terina Brittany Smith, Stacey Hopkins and Benjamin Hanara.

There was a new name, but the same poignant spirit settled across the first two Māori pre-graduation ceremonies of the year.

Over the past two Fridays, around 50 graduands adorned in korowai, karahua and other cloaks were supported by their whanau at Te Heika Pounamu in the Union Hall.

The name of the ceremony, which was changed from Whakapotae this year, acknowledges the importance of tauira Māori. The ceremony included a formal presentation of a pounamu to each graduand, as a formal recognition of their achievements.

"The pounamu also refers to the whanau of the tauira themselves, and acts as a symbol of us returning their mokopuna."

Te Huka Matauraka manager Pearl Matahiki told those in attendance at the first pre-graduation ceremony the name change had a significant amount of symbolism.

“The pounamu also refers to the whanau of the tauira themselves, and acts as a symbol of us returning their mokopuna,” Mrs Matahiki said.

Among those who graduated were past president of the Physical Education Māori Students Association (PEMSA) Stacey Hopkins, of Te Atiawa, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Porou descent. Another who graduated was Benjamin Hanara, who worked with the police to create a fitness and leadership programme to help mentor Māori youth towards a positive pathway. Both graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education, and are both undergoing postgraduate study.

Stacey told the crowd it was a huge privilege to represent the Māori student body within the Department of Physical Education.

“To my family, thank you for everything you have done for me, it’s great to see you here,” Stacey told the crowd. “Welcome to this part of my life.”

Dr Anne-Marie Jackson of the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise earlier told the crowd about the importance of the students for their communities.

“Despite graduating in different divisions – your families gave us you, and now it’s our time to give you back,” Dr Jackson told the crowd.

"Embody the visions of the communities. This isn’t the end of your journey, it’s a start."

“Embody the visions of the communities. This isn’t the end of your journey, it’s a start.”

It was a packed house for the second pre-graduation ceremony the following Friday, where Dr Darryn Russell was acknowledged for his Doctorate in Political Science. The former Director, Office of Māori Development was given a rapturous applause when his name was called out at the Hunter Centre.

Other tauira Māori who graduated include Kaharau Keogh. Kaharau completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori Studies and a Graduate Diploma in Music. Of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tara Tokanui descent, Kaharau was instrumental in tutoring kapa haka within Te Roopu Māori as well as with Otago Boys’ High School and Otago Girls’ High School.

It has been a successful month for Māori graduates at the University of Otago. In total, 146 tauira Māori graduated across the two ceremonies in May.

The next Te Heika Pounamu will take place on 17 August, a day before the August graduation ceremony.

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Members of Te Roopu Whakakaha Tinana perform a haka during one of this month’s Māori pre-graduation ceremonies.