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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

2 mins ago

Justice Otene with her daughter Talan-Erica.

After years of juggling study, work, and family life, Justice Otene (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tuhoe) is finally opening a new chapter.

The 26-year-old finished her Bachelor in Recreation and Sport with top marks and is looking forward to celebrating her success with friends and whānau at the graduation ceremony on Friday.

Ever since Justice was young, she loved sports and exercise. She played netball, basketball, and rugby league until a back injury forced her to quit. She picked up cross-fit instead, a sport that she became very passionate about. In 2013, she completed a diploma in massage followed by a level 3 and 4 level sport and exercise qualification at the NZ Institute of Sport. In 2018, she started the degree at EIT.

“When I decided to do the Bachelor, I was pregnant with my daughter Talan-Erica. EIT just seemed like the perfect place for me. It offers high-quality education while being easy to access, family-friendly, and supportive. My daughter later also got a place at the EIT’s Ōtātara Children’s Centre, which was super handy.”

Justice highlights how much support she got from her lecturers, in particular during lockdown. “As a solo māmā in my final year, I had to attend to my daughter 24/7. It was so hard to keep on top of it, but the lecturers always made time for us. They were empathetic and understanding, and we had many one-on-one conversations. I couldn’t have done it without them,” Justice adds.

The encouragement of her classmates made a big difference too. “The noho marae at the beginning of our second year was certainly a highlight. Not only was I excited to see that EIT tries to incorporate more Māori tikanga into the curriculum, but it also brought us together as a class.”

For Justice, the most significant take-aways from her study are researching skills, no doubt an asset for any future jobs. Not to forget the coaching and leadership skills, and the confidence to professionally engage with the community.

A placement with the Police last year helped shape Justice’s vision for the future. “I helped develop a programme for Māori wāhine who want to join the Police but were yet to pass Physical Appraisal Test. This work inspired me to the point that I’m now going to apply for a role as a Police officer,” says Justice. “Māori wāhine are underrepresented in the Police and face barriers to join, especially young māmā who struggle to find the time to prepare and train for the fitness test.”

Justice adds, “A big focus for me is Māori health. There is such a huge need for people who promote Māori health. I want to encourage others to get active and exercise. This will always be part of my mahi.”

MIL OSI