Waipapa Taumata Rau Kaiārahi: cultural champions

Kaiārahi at Waipapa Taumata Rau are Māori leaders appointed for their knowledge of te ao Māori and involvement in their communities. UniNews chats with some of them ahead of Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori.

Dale Harding-Thomas is Kaiārahi for People and Culture.
Dale Harding-Thomas says it's important to be culturally capable, competent and respectful of te ao Māori. Photo: Chris Loufte

Dale Harding-Thomas, Kaiārahi, Human Resources (HR)

Dale Harding-Thomas (Ngāpuhi) is a kaiako (teacher) and a Master of Indigenous Studies. The inaugural Kaiārahi of HR is a grandmother of five and mother of nine. The crossfit enthusiast is also a keen waka ama paddler and partial to a ride on her Harley-Davidson when the sun’s out.

Dale says the role of a Kaiārahi involves championing Māoritanga.

“We all love being Māori, so let’s make that visible i ngā wā katoa (at all times).

“Our role is to support, guide and encourage others to learn and adapt to the skills needed to better understand their role in supporting both kaimahi and tauira Māori.

“The goal for HR has always been to be culturally capable, competent and responsive in a way that caters to and respects te ao Māori.”

She says it’s important that every space at Waipapa Taumata Rau has a Kaiārahi.

“We are an active part of a kaimahi Māori network and we can make those connections for everyone. Kaiārahi also have the skills to help navigate spaces, te reo, resources and learning opportunities.”

She believes that’s where the mana of the Kaiārahi comes from.

“It’s their connectedness and relationships in their respective faculties or services, and with our PVC Māori office, as well as their external knowledge, whānau and previous roles. He tino pukenga o ngā Kaiārahi (Kaiārahi have many skills).

“If we continue to whanaungatanga with each other as kaimahi Māori within the University, we champion that concept of being whānau and that makes people want to become a part of it.”

Dale has been teaching te reo Māori in HR since she arrived in 2022, and is also committed to tautoko (support) her whānau and marae with their learning.

“It’s choice to be a Māori; we should say that often! Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori!”

Tui Kaumoana is Kaiārahi for UniServices.
Tui Kaumoana is creating pathways for rangatahi leadership.

Tui Kaumoana, Kaiārahi, UniServices

Tui Kaumoana (Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto) is a businesswoman, ethicist, māmā, wife and grandmother. Raised with the influence of her elders, Tui inherited mātauranga passed through generations. She also speaks three languages, English, te reo Māori and Mandarin, and has a postgraduate diploma in Māori Business Development and a MBA from the University.

Her early career was spent working for her iwi at Waikato Tainui and the office of the Māori King, Te Tari o te Kiingitanga, before further study at the University.

Tui says the focus for all Kaiārahi is to provide a strategic Māori lens across their departments or faculties to ensure culturally safe environments are provided for all kaimahi (staff), tauira (students) and external partners.

She believes “success is succession” so creating pathways for rangatahi leadership has been her priority. She has led a Māori internship programme since 2020.

Part of her role includes using her expertise as a Māori ethicist for the University. She is part of the kaitiaki group for the longitudinal study Growing Up In New Zealand and a member of the Liggins Institute Māori Advisory Board.

“The Human Participants Ethics Committee offered a crash course in realising the importance of having a qualified Māori voice at the table,” she says. “A lot of my time is spent making recommendations to protect kaupapa Māori research, Māori data usage and intellectual property protection.”

Tui is married to Michael Steedman, the University’s Kaiarataki, Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori, who became the inaugural Kaiārahi in 2010, in the Faculty of Science.

Dr Peter Keegan is Kaiārahi for the Faculty of Education and Social Work.
Dr Peter Keegan says if Māori and Indigenous education is to improve, then more high-quality research is required. Photo: Chris Loufte

Dr Peter Keegan, Kaiārahi, Faculty of Education and Social Work

A senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Dr Peter Keegan (Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngāti Porou) is a pāpā, matua, marae committee member, reader and raconteur, with interests that include computing and keeping fit outdoors – especially in the bush and mountains.

Peter provides advice and assistance for researchers undertaking educational and linguistic research in the Māori community. This includes ad hoc advice on research methodologies, Māori language and tikanga Māori.

“Too many Māori have experiences of being involved in research that has either gone wrong or resulted in very few benefits for those involved,” he says.

“There is a realisation that if Māori and Indigenous education is to improve, then more high-quality research is required.

“Engagement with Māori has become part of research process in New Zealand, along with an ongoing need to increase Māori research capacity and capabilities among Waipapa Taumata Rau staff and students.”

He says it’s important to work collaboratively with others when opportunities arise.

“I am fortunate to belong to Te Puna Wānanga which has many long-standing Māori staff and attracts high-quality Māori students. I am also well-supported by my whānau and iwi; these are critical elements for Māori.”

And just as you might expect from someone whose focus is education, he has embraced learning te reo as an adult.

“He tino taonga te reo Māori. Kāore au i tupu ki roto i te reo i taku tamarikitanga. Ka pakeke au ka tīmata ki te ako i te reo Māori, nā tēnei mahi kua kite au i te hua o te reo Māori."

“Māori language is an important treasure. I wasn’t brought up speaking Māori but learnt it in adulthood. Through this, I became aware of its great value and importance.”

Hone Arohaina Te Topa Thorpe is Kaiārahi in the Faculty of Business.
Hone Thorpe encourages everyone to get on their te reo and tikanga journeys.

Hone Arohaina Te Topa Thorpe, Kaiārahi, Faculty of Business

Hone Arohaina Te Topa Thorpe (Te Āti Awa) comes from an education and activist background. He’s a te reo Māori champion who took part in the Māori Language Petition in 1972, alongside Ngā Tamatoa and Te Reo Māori Society.

He describes that petition as, “a monumental occasion that I have never forgotten”.

“The speeches in te reo Māori on the steps of Parliament still resonate today in my work in the Business School.”

Hone has a strong interest in self-improvement through learning and thinking about how accounting, business, law, economics, entrepreneurship, governance, marketing, management and systems should be part of the Māori world.

His focus as Kaiārahi has been in strategy development to bring more rangatahi Māori into these areas and to work with staff so Māori can succeed as authentically Māori in the University’s Business School. He has written two high-school economics books, one on inflation and the other on employment.

He encourages everyone to get on their te reo and tikanga journey. He says he is always learning. His mantra is, ‘Kei hea te komako e kō? Where will the bellbird sing?’.

“That means it’s up to everyone to keep te reo Māori and tikanga alive. If we do nothing, then we have cut the shoots of the harakeke. Kia whiua! Kia kaha!”

Wiremu Tipuna is Kaiārahi in the Faculty of Law.
Wiremu Tipuna's priority is to see the success of Māori learners.

Wiremu Tipuna, Kaiārahi, Faculty of Law

Wiremu Tipuna (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa) is a father, foodie, diver and footy fan. He’s also a te reo Māori teacher and Master of Māori Development.

He didn’t have an academic background, nor could he speak te reo Māori until 2006, but says when he headed down that path, it opened many doors.

“Te reo Māori is a strong component to what’s secured me the role of Kaiārahi in the Faculty of Law.

“I’m really excited and passionate about it because it means supporting Māori and Pacific success. It allows me to speak at an executive level, advocate for ideas, share our vision, who we wish to be and what success looks like to us. We explore how we can make good contributions to our communities within and outside of the University.”

His personal goal is to increase grade point averages over the next five years by “moulding a model where Māori can see themselves being a part of it”.

“My priority is to see the success of Māori learners. I look through the lens of a multi-faceted linguist. I support the faculty and staff by developing and supporting tikanga.”

Teariki Tuiono is Kaiārahi in the Faculty of Science.
Teariki Tuiono's focus is developing culturally safe spaces in the Science faculty and supporting students to succeed through their culture and language. Photo: Chris Loufte

Teariki Tuiono, Kaiārahi, Faculty of Science

Teariki Tuiono (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Takato, Ngāti Ingātū, Kuki Airani) has been an educator most of his life. In South Korea and Southeast Asia, he taught English at universities and private institutions and taught bilingual education at the University of Canterbury. He is also a social entrepreneur and publisher, a culturally responsive educator, and the Kaiārahi for Te Whare Pūtaiao, the Faculty of Science.

Teariki cares deeply about South Auckland and it influences much of his teaching.

“I’m a big fan of incremental change that brings everybody on the journey, as opposed to telling people, ‘This is how it is: do it,’” he says.

“As Kaiārahi, we take a unified approach, because at the end of the day, every single one of us has a role to peel the potatoes at the marae.”

Teariki’s focus is developing culturally safe spaces in the Science faculty and supporting students to succeed through their culture and language. He is working on two strategic frameworks for Māori and Pacific students, as well as Tangata Tiriti, a programme to educate about the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“A Kaiārahi’s role is to accelerate success for Māori and Pacific in their learning pathways.”

There has been progress. In May, he presented science degrees at the Māori graduation ceremony, joking that he “needed new shoes by the end of it”.

“This makes me excited – to welcome and work alongside more Māori scientists, and to see them forge their futures.”

Story by Te Rina Triponel

Waipapa Taumata Rau has other Kaiārahi, including:
Wikuki Kingi (Creative Arts and Industries);
Abigail McClutchie and Manuhiri Huatahi (Libraries and Learning Services);
Leanne Tāmaki (Faculty of Arts);
Grace Latimer (Campus Life);
Haunui Royal (Liggins Institute);
Steve Roberts (Engineering)

This article first appeared in September 2023 UniNews