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Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to celebrate 25 years

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to celebrate 25-year anniversary

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA) will on Tuesday, April 27, celebrate the 25th anniversary of the opening of Otāwhao Marae – a marae construction project that inspired and led to the creation of the nationwide tertiary education provider.

National and local dignitaries, including Kiingi Tuheitia, past and former TWoA and Te Awamutu College staff and students and members of the Te Awamutu community will be among the hundreds expected at the ceremony to mark the anniversary of the marae opening.

The marae, built at Te Awamutu College, was just the second in New Zealand’s history to be built on a public school.

The marae was completed through fundraising by community leaders, including Rongo Wetere, founder and the first CEO. Construction was carried out by former students of the school and volunteers under the master leadership of Dr Paki Harrison and his wife Hinemoa.

TWoA Pouhere (chief executive) Bentham Ohia said the marae was the catalyst for a revolution in tertiary education provision - especially for Maori. He paid tribute to the early visionaries who committed themselves to complete the project.

“TWoA grew from very humble origins. The Otāwhao Marae planted that seed that would grow into the nationwide tertiary education provider that our institution is today. We had a hardy group of local people who were passionate about education, and finding another way for our kids who fell through the cracks of mainstream education,” Mr Ohia said.

“Those pioneers, sacrificed their time, mortgaged their homes, and committed to a passion of providing a place for our young people to draw strength and grow.”

Mr Ohia said the success of the Otāwhao Marae project and the value it brought to the youth involved, formed the genesis for an education focus that centred on providing a training environment that nurtured students, guided by Maori principals and values, and focused on removing barriers to education.

The subsequent training facility that grew as a result evolved from the Waipa Kokiri Arts Centre, the Aotearoa Institute and ultimately Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, one of the country’s largest tertiary education providers.

Mr Ohia said as a result of the marae’s pioneers, more than 250,000 tauira (students) had studied with TWoA, across a wide range of courses, from certificate to degree, including in te reo Maori, social work, teaching, environmental, computer and business studies.

“I am humbled to be here to acknowledge the amazing work of those individuals, a number of whom are not here today to accept my gratitude and the gratitude of the community and the many tens of thousands of tauira who have had their lives changed by the power of education and a reconnection with our country’s unique Maori culture.” -


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