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Kaumātua Intervene To Provide A Safe Space For Māori At Unitec

Representatives of Te Rōpū Mataara (Unitec Māori Staff Collective) and kaumātua, who have strong connections with Māori education and communities in Tāmaki Makaurau, met last Friday 11th February to discuss the pressing issues facing Māori at Unitec. The kaumātua unanimously agreed to establish a “tira whakaruruhau“, a body to “shield, protect and shelter” in the wake of a four member resignation from the previous Rūnanga and the departure of Te Tumu Māori from the executive management position last month.

This kaumātua led group, named Te Tira Kāpuia, unanimously agreed to condemn the poor decisions made at governance and management levels that impact on Māori staff, Māori students and Māori communities at Unitec. Te Tira Kapuia, chaired by Rangi Mclean, has offered their support and guidance to hold a safe space for Māori as they traverse challenging and difficult times at Unitec.

In the two-hour meeting, members from Te Rōpū Mataara were fortunate to listen to a description of their 30 years of Māori community involvement and significant contribution to Unitec’s history. This included resisting the opposition by Unitec’s Board at the time, to the building of the marae Ngākau Māhaki within the grounds of Unitec by Te Arawa master carver Dr Lyonel Grant.

It was a privilege to hear Dr Haare Williams reminisce about how the Te Noho Kotahitanga document was developed as a Treaty partnership framework for Unitec to ensure continuity of a safe place for Māori in Unitec. The document is handwritten by Dr Williams himself.

Te Tira Kapuia offers welcomed support to Te Rōpu Mataara, as Māori staff and students at Unitec continue to express feeling culturally unsafe as an impact of institutional racism. These respected kaumātua hold a wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom in the education sector and in our Māori communities. Te Tira Kapuia will provide invaluable guidance and direction to Māori at this time. Te Rōpū Mataara believe this intervention is critical to moving forward.

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