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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Ngāti Toa and Whitireia

Following the relocation of Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira offices to their whenua (land) on the Whitireia Community Polytechnic campus at the end of last year, an exciting new initiative has been launched with a specific focus on supporting ākonga Māori (Māori students) in Porirua. It is called Te Awarua.

Te Awarua is an iwi-led centre set up to support ākonga Māori and is part of an active partnership between Whitireia and Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira. Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira is the mandated iwi authority for Ngāti Toa Rangatira.

Te Awarua will be located in Te Kete Wānanga Building at the Porirua Whitireia campus.

The team based out of Te Awarua will support the success and development of all ākonga Māori enrolled at Whitireia. The team will provide academic, pastoral, cultural, and mentoring support, as well as advocacy internally and externally, as required. Te Awarua will also link into services provided directly from Ngāti Toa Rangatira and learner support services at Whitireia.

“Ngāti Toa understands the power of education to transform lives and we are excited about this initiative in collaboration with Whitireia,” says Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira CEO, Helmut Modlik. “It is part of the natural continuum of our long-standing partnership and our recent return to our whenua on the Whitireia campus,” says Mr Modlik. “Supporting ākonga is part of our vision to enhance the wellbeing, prosperity and mana of our people which will inevitably support other communities in our rohe.”

Jarom Hippolite has been brought on board to lead the team based at Te Awarua.

Jarom will be supported by Te Ariki Wi Neera, the current Pou Whakamanawa at Whitireia (Engagement Advisor, Māori) at Porirua; Waiana Tagata, who has an Advanced Diploma in Performing Arts from Whitireia and co-founder of the Heilani Polynesian School of Arts in Australia; and Rangi Piwari who is a former technology tutor at Whitireia and currently working at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.

“A big focus is sharing knowledge among the students here at Whitireia that further help, focused specifically on ākonga Māori, is available,” says Jarom. “We have a welcoming space where ākonga can come to share with us how we can best help them gain their qualifications and follow their dreams.”

Jarom, who grew up near the Ngāti Toa Rangatira marae at Takapūwāhia in Porirua, is not new to leading iwi/Crown initiatives, and has done similar work with another of his iwi, Ngāti Koata, in the environmental space. Jarom has also worked in collaboration with the Crown and iwi during his time at the Environmental Protection Authority and more recently with the Ministry of Education. Jarom has experienced different education systems in Hawaii and the US, as well as in New Zealand, and has a good understanding of different approaches and ways of engaging with students.

“Our aim is to support all kaimahi and ākonga across all of our campuses as best we can in a way that is most responsive to their needs,” says Mark Oldershaw, chief executive at Whitireia and WelTec. “Te Awarua will link Jarom and his team, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, and our existing learner services to ensure ākonga have exactly what they need in order to achieve qualifications and transition into work.

“It is great to have Jarom collaborate with us and lead this new project. It is very exciting and speaks to the long-standing partnership between Whitireia and Ngāti Toa Rangatira and to a future where working together means the best outcomes for the local communities we both serve,” says Mr Oldershaw.

The name Te Awarua comes from the pūrakau (legend) Te Awarua o Pōrirua. This is a story significant to the history of Ngāti Toa. It tells the story of a time when Parirua, the Porirua harbour, was abundant and thriving. It was a place that nourished people by providing kai and opportunities to learn, share and connect. In the pūrakau, Te Awarua, the taniwha, admires Rereroa, the albatross, as she flies high in the sky above. Te Awarua wishes she too could fly and is supported by Rereroa to learn to do so. Although at times this seems impossible, the journey difficult, and Te Awarua feels she may not succeed, ultimately Te Awarua takes flight! The relationship between Te Awarua and Rereroa shares the experience of growth, tuakana and teina connection, leadership, and support, and a journey all can learn from. It teaches the importance of whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kōtahi tātou and rangatiratanga – connectedness, support, working together and self determination. The ākonga (student) journey has been drawn from this story to develop Te Awarua. Just like Te Awarua – with the right support mechanisms in place, ākonga can achieve their aspirations and dreams.

Supporting the success and participation of ākonga Māori enrolled at WelTec is the Te Ǡti Awa designed model of support – Tamaiti Whāngai. The Tamaiti Whāngai team work out of the student Hub at the WelTec campus in Petone and in the trades area of the Porirua Whitireia campus. Tamaiti Whāngai offers mentoring, pastoral, cultural and academic support and internal and external advocacy as required. This partnership has been in place for more than ten years.