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Honorary doctorate for educationalist Turoa Royal

Monday, March 16, 2009
Recognition for education work of a ‘learned gentleman’

Turoa Royal was told throughout his early education that to become a “learned gentleman” he needed to study and speak other languages.

At Wellesley College, Pukekohe, in the late 1940s he was told that Latin was the language he must learn. At Auckland University in the 1950s he was told the language of learned gentlemen was, in fact, Italian. Having learnt both, he decided the language a learned gentleman in New Zealand should speak was Mäori.

Mr Royal (Ngäti Raukawa ki Te Tonga, Ngäti Wharara, Ngäti Hine and Ngä Puhi) grew up on the farm at Kaiaua and assumed he would become a farmer. “I just wanted to milk dad’s cows. My parents and uncles wanted me to have an education, they told me ‘no, you are off to uni’.”

As an undergraduate, he was one of a small number of Mäori students who argued that Mäori language should be a curriculum subject for teacher trainees. He has campaigned successfully ever since then for Mäori educational advancement.

“It was the first time I realised the system could change. We decided the language needed to be taught in schools and later I was involved in developing a curriculum for Mäori and New Zealand kids that was more appropriate to them.”

On May 13, Mr Royal, 74, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Literature degree at one of the Massey University graduation ceremonies in Palmerston North, in recognition of his sustained contribution to education

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Mäori, Professor Mason Durie, says Mr Royal piloted the introduction of whänau-based learning and was an early advocate for recognising cultural identity as an important determinant of educational achievement – a theory he was able to convert into practice, both in the curriculum and in the school’s overall culture.

His pioneering efforts at the secondary level were later to be replicated in the tertiary sector as foundation Chief Executive Officer for the Parumoana Community College (now Whitireia Community Polytechnic).

At that time he also became involved with the fledgling Te Wänanga ö Raukawa in Otaki and through his efforts enabled the Wänanga to launch its first programmes as an outreach of the polytechnic. By 1990, in addition to heading Whitireia he was chairman of the wänanga and played a key role in facilitating the recognition of Te Wänanga ö Raukawa under the Education Amendment Act 1990.

He has also been a part-time lecturer in education at Victoria University and in education and Mäori studies at Massey.

His reputation as an educator and innovator is widely acknowledged in Mäori and indigenous education circles and he has recently stepped down from two key roles, one was as chair of Te Tähuhu ö Ngä Wänanga the Association of Wänanga and the second was a six-year term as executive chair of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium.

He has been a Government adviser on Mäori education, a board member of Capital and Coast district health, a member of the Porirua Business Development Society, the JM McKenzie Trust and the New Zealand Planning Council.

His work in Government Public Service was recognised with the award of the Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) in 2005.

He is currently writing the last chapter of a book about the transformation of Mäori education in New Zealand from assimilation and invisibility to self-management. “The final chapter is what I call unfinished business about the challenge for the future of this country towards nationhood.”

“I’ve been part of a transformation from assimilation to indigenous self-management in education. Where Mäori now manage their own matters”, he says.


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