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Nine young leaders win Dame Te Atairangikaahu scholarships

Nine emerging young Māori leaders are this year’s recipients of Waikato Regional Council’s Dame Te Atairangikaahu Scholarships, designed to help promote education of rangatahi (youth) in the region.

The University of Waikato students were presented with their scholarships ranging from $2500 to $500 at a ceremony in Hamilton today. They were:

• Ngāpera Keegan, Ngāti Apakura

• Roiana Pihama, Ngāti Māhanga

• Siobhan Nuri, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura

• Luka Love, Te Ati Awa

• Victoria Maikuku, Ngāti Mahuta ki te hauāuru

• Constance Walters, Ngāti Ranginui

• Abbey Huriwai, Ngāti Koroki

• Teresa Poli, Ngai Tūhoe

• Briar Mills, Te Whānau a-Apanui.

The Dame Te Atairangikāhu Scholarships were established in 1991 to mark the 25th anniversary of Te Atairangikaahu becoming Māori queen, to pay tribute to her leadership and help Māori studying at the University of Waikato.

Ngāpera Keegan – from Ngāti Apakura – is in her third year of study at the university, completing a Bachelor of Science majoring in Environmental Science. In her first year at university she was nominated by the senior tutors of Biology, Earth Science and Chemistry as the top first year Māori student in the entire Faculty of Science and Engineering with the highest grades across all papers.

Ngāpera was enrolled in total immersion education in 1998, attending Te Kohanga Reo o Ngā Kuaka for five years and continuing study in Te Reo Māori at Te Kura Kaupapa o Tōku Māpihi Maurea. She attended Ngā Taiātea Wharekura where she was top of her class in her first 4 years of secondary school education and finally dux of the school in 2016.

As a result of her total immersion education, Ngāpera is fluent in Māori and English and belongs to Hiona and Pūrekireki marae. Today she continues to be mentored by Waikato-Tainui kaumatua and influential leaders, developing her depth and understanding of Waikato kawa, tikanga and te reo.

She has gained recent work experience with AgResearch and Waikato Regional Council, inspiring her to strengthen her understanding of regional council environmental planning, processes and procedures. Her future aspirations with local government include supporting the council to continually improve and strengthen its relations and co-decision making arrangements with iwi and their involvement with the environment.

Roiana Pihama – from Ngāti Māhanga – is in her third year of a Bachelor of Science majoring in cellular and molecular biology. Last year she accumulated straight As in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Te Reo Māori. She extended her Māori language qualifications at the Wānanga o Aotearoa where she passed the prestigious diploma in Te Pīnakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi. Her future career plans include returning to complete her medical degree and to become a fluent speaking medical doctor committed to tikanga Māori in the health sector.

Environmental sustainability is important to Roiana, who strongly believes in the principle of parakore, zero waste, which she practises at home. She’s taken small steps, such as saying no to single use plastic bags, not buying anything wrapped in plastic, buying glass over plastic, using reusable cutlery and not using plastic straws. She was also heavily involved in the riparian planting programme on her marae and urupā and the Waipā River. Roiana is engaged with her community at many levels and believes everyone has an important contribution to make.

She was the returning officer this year for Ngā Taiātea Wharekura where her role was to appoint the new board of trustees. Roiana is also a research assistant at the Waikato Tainui College for Research and Development to enhance the development of her iwi.

The Kiingitanga plays a significant role in her life. She was raised near her marae, Te Papa o Rotu in Whatawhata, a venue for the annual poukai that underpins the philosophy of the Kiingitanga. Today she continues to be mentored by her Waikato-Tainui kuia and kaumatua, extending her understanding of Waikato marae kawa, tikanga and te reo.

Regional council chairman Alan Livingston said it was a pleasure to present nine scholarships to such high calibre students.

“It’s especially pleasing to see young people committed to the sciences and the sustainability of the environment, while continuing to make a strong contribution to their respective communities.”

It’s a sentiment supported by Tipa Mahuta, regional council deputy chair, who noted that more student candidates are becoming aware of the scholarship support for those taking up degrees in science and engineering.

“They all exemplify the mana of service to their iwi and the quality of leadership Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu brought to her reign as Māori queen. In fact, eight of the nine recipients this year were young Māori women and that’s an achievement for all rangatahi to celebrate and aspire to.”

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