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Harawira: Te Wananga o Aotearoa Manukau Graduation

Te Wananga o Aotearoa Manukau Campus Graduation
Genesis Energy Theatre; Telstra Clear Pacific, Auckland
Saturday 8 July 2006; 3.30pm

Hone Harawira, Member for Te Tai Tokerau, Maori Party


E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā kärangaranga maha, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tätou katoa.

Pride and Joy

A couple of months ago I read an article in the Te Awamutu Courier about James Davidson who had graduated with a Certificate in Small Business Management and his wife Jeanne who had graduated with a Certificate in Advanced Māori.

There was a picture of them at their graduation at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa with their children Etere, Winiata and Jordan.

What really made me look at this story was the gynormous grins on the faces of their two boys - you would have thought they were the graduates - the pride and joy in the eyes and the smiles of the two boys was dazzling beyond belief.

It’s those heart-warming grins that I have been thinking about over these past couple of weeks when Maoridom has been so much under the microscope, because it is that look of belief, and hope, and pride that lifts our spirits when answers can be so hard to find.

So I am honoured, and I am proud, and I am humbled to be here today, at the Graduation of the Manukau campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, because the belief, the hope and the pride that I see here today is a tonic for us all.

Success Denied

I was also looking at what has made Te Wānanga o Aotearoa so successful, and the Wānanga has much to be proud of; from a tin shed in Te Awamutu in 1983, to 34,000 full-time enrolments, thirteen campuses, and 1200 staff in 2004.

And we must constantly remind ourselves of that spectacular success as the wananga staggers forward from the onslaught of the past few years.

34000 fulltime enrolments in 2004; 27000 in 2005; and a projected 21000 in 2006.

We know that changes in the tertiary framework have had a big impact on students, whanau, teachers and support staff right across the country.

But we also know that government deliberately targeted Te Wananga o Aotearoa in a direct attack on a Maori institution for daring to be better than older, more established, ‘pakeha’ tertiary institutions; for daring to open the door for Maori to rediscover the value of education in a positive learning environment that most were denied in their primary and secondary school years; and for daring in fact, to be successful.

Education Cuts

And in looking back just over a year ago now, we see government announcing that they would be cutting funding to certificate and diploma level courses.

And who was hardest hit? Maori, for fully 80% of Māori students start their studies at certificate and diploma level, and staircase to higher-level courses, as they become familiar with tertiary study. Those were exactly the courses that government decided to cut.

And guess who was running most of them? Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

In attacking the Wananga for being successful, government has also dashed the dreams of those Maori students who had been failed by mainstream education, but had risen again under the guidance of the wananga.

Add to this:

§ the increasing fees
§ the loss of vital scholarships such as Manaaki Tauira
§ the loss of the Special Supplementary Grant Maori
§ and the massive reduction in funding for Adult and Community Education

and it’s a bloody wonder that I am talking to anyone here today at all.

Your success

But the fact that you are here, and that this theatre is jam-packed, tells me that you have the resilience, the commitment, and the courage to continue to pursue your dreams in the face of huge adversity, and I salute you all.

You have applied yourselves to the aspirations of Te Ara Reo; you have taken up the challenge of Ako Whakatere - to accelerate your learning in tikanga, reo and möteatea to enable you to stand tall in any place and in any situation here in Aotearoa, and I salute you all.

Some of you have taken on the challenge of Maori environmental management and resource management, and others have taken up the practice and theory of kaihoe waka, and I salute you all.

At a time when Maoridom is facing huge criticism, many of you took on the challenge of second-chance learning, and when the nation expected you to fail, you stepped up to the mark, and you have succeeded, and I salute you all.

Leadership

Over the last two weeks, the Maori nation has been crying out for leadership, and I see that leadership here. Not in parliament where even the best intentions are undone by party point-scoring, but right here.

You choice to learn your heritage, your language, and your culture is a validation of Te Ao Maori. And in graduating today, you demonstrate a commitment to be better prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

You must be the catalyst of change for our whānau, and you must never again allow others to do for us that which we can best do for ourselves.

You who stepped outside the box to enrol in these programmes, you who have silenced the doubters by daring to succeed, you cannot allow yourselves to be pushed back into the background.

Through your courses at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa you have taken the opportunity to shape your own destiny. Don’t let it stop there!

Our world is stronger for your being Māori.

As I look out at you all today, it does my heart good. I see the grins on the faces of your children and your mokopuna, and I have hope for our future.

Today you have done your tupuna proud. Wear your success with pride, for your success is our success.

We treasure you all, we salute you all, and we celebrate you all.

In closing, let me congratulate your leaders - Darryl Lambert, Campus Director; and Bentham Ohia, Pouhere o te Wananga - tena korua.

And although it may be a little politically incorrect to say so, let me also mention one special man - for his vision, his dedication, his commitment, his courage, his passion, and his historic, ground-breaking work to build a pathway to education that thousands upon thousands of Maori had thought forever closed - Rongo Wetere, on behalf of the Maori Party, indeed, on behalf of the Maori world, I salute you.

No reira, e te whānau, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

ENDS

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