Tāmati Rākena

Tāmati Rākena is the co-founder of Tahunakura Charitable Trust and My Taiao Clothing based in Northland, a not-for-profit partnership providing financial support to assist Māori undertaking tertiary studies. Tāmati is also a Kupe Leadership Scholar.

Northland has always been the place Tāmati Rākena calls home.

Living off the grid in Mitimiti, a remote community on Northland’s west coast has its challenges – the nearest supermarket is almost two hours’ drive away and mobile coverage is patchy at best – yet Tāmati says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Completing my masters thesis did mean that I had to rely on solar power for my internet connection, but then if I want a kai, I only have to walk out my front door.”

Tāmati was the recipient of the prestigious Sonny & Mona Riini Scholarship in 2017 (the first from Te Tai Tokerau) and selected to attend the United Nations Young Leaders Conference in Thailand the same year. He says he returned to New Zealand with a newfound sense of energy and purpose.

Opportunity was to knock once again in 2019 with the awarding of a Kupe Leadership Scholarship, which allowed him to complete his masters in Education.

“I was very proud to graduate in 2018 with the Dean’s Award as the top academic student for Huarahi Māori in the Faculty of Education as well as gaining First Class Honours in 2020. It was an outcome I never thought I would achieve a decade ago.”

As a result of research for his thesis, Tāmati identified an approach to learning he believes needs to be embraced more widely within education.

“My thesis subject was based around the Maramataka (lunar calendar) and how it is used in three kura in Te Tai Tokerau. My conclusions were that mātauranga Māori is a valid resource for teaching and learning in our kura.

“For too long, Māori have had to conform to subjects that do not align with their whakapapa. Therefore, by re-introducing mātauranga Māori such as the Maramataka, our whānau are able to strive in a more suitable learning environment that is by Māori, about Māori, for Māori.”

More recently, life has taken a different twist for Tāmati with the establishment of a new venture designed to support more young Māori into tertiary education. Tāmati says he is driven to support others to achieve their goals, particularly when barriers often prevent this from occurring.

“From the outset I have never seen myself as a classroom teacher but more an advocate for education. I am driven to help bring about change in areas where I can make a difference both at a practical level but also in policy development.”

Bringing together his passion for education and the need for funding to develop his vision has led to the creation of Tahunakura Charitable Trust and Taiao Clothing.

“Along with my wife, we have founded our own charitable trust that sits alongside an online business selling outdoor clothing targeted at those with an interest in hunting and fishing. All the profits from the business are channelled through a foundation that supports tertiary students in Northland undertaking courses across the region.”

It’s all part of a master plan with an end goal Tāmati says is designed to reflect his Northland roots.

“I want the kaupapa to take off and for whānau to lead the way. This will enable me to eventually take a back seat so that I can finally buy the truck and boat of my dreams and go fishing.”