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Source: Massey University

Ms Julia Taiapa pictured with her daughter Puawai and son Rongomai

Massey’s longest serving Māori staff member, Ms Julia Taiapa, was bid a poignant farewell today as she retires from her position with Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, School of Māori Knowledge.  Staff members were able to connect online on Wednesday afternoon with members of the Taiapa whānau and to reflect on many special memories and recollections of Ms Taiapa’s time at Massey University.

Ms Taiapa’s association with Massey University dates back to the commencement of her studies in 1973. She later joined the staff of Massey at a time when Sir Hugh Kawharu established what would eventually become the Māori Studies Department, and later Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, under Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori, Professor Meihana Durie says that her contribution is immeasurable. “One of the areas Kōkā Julia hails from is Ngāti Porou on the East Coast of the North Island, there is a local proverbial saying; Waiapu kōkā huhua, which describes the multitude of accomplishments attributed particularly to the women of the region.

“Kōkā Julia has epitomised the essence of this proverb by exemplifying manaakitanga and fulfilling an integral role in the successes of many staff and students here at Massey and particularly Te Pūtahi-a-Toi. Kōkā Julia has guided, mentored, and nurtured the multitudes to ensure that we remain meaningfully connected to Te Ao Māori while studying and working at Massey University.”

Professor Durie says as the kaipupuru, (custodian), of the mauri of Te Pūtahi-a-Toi, that Ms Taiapa has maintained critical connections for the University in the face of many changes over the years.  “The role of kaipupuru ensures that we continually acknowledge the importance of our past while preparing for our future as best as possible, and in this respect Kōkā Julia’s work serves as an exemplar for us all.  She has been an incredible stalwart  both for Massey but also our wider community here in Te Papaioea.  Although today marks the conclusion of one chapter for her, we will still continue to benefit from her wisdom and generosity to our kaupapa.”