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Awanuiārangi graduates urged to drive change

02 April 2019

Graduation Gown and Town Hikoi

Celebrate culture, celebrate difference, celebrate diversity, celebrate resilience – and use your education to make change happen. This was the message from speaker after speaker as Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi marked the graduation of more than 3,000 students on the day of the national remembrance service for victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Education can liberate the mind, guest speaker Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said, urging the graduands to grow their mātauranga (knowledge base) and embrace other knowledge bases to meet the challenges of the time.

“Education has a purpose,” Minister Mahuta said. “We have to apply the skills we have obtained, the gifts we have been given and all our lived experience to build the type of community, whānau wellbeing and the nation’s wellbeing that means we can stand, as a country, proud of who we are, proud of our cultural acceptance and tolerance.”

Chief executive Professor Wiremu Doherty said Friday’s graduation was a celebration of being Māori. But, as people who were no stranger to the ideology of division, Māori understood the need to also celebrate culture, difference, diversity and resilience.

“The whare wānanga is conferring degrees upon graduates who speak their own language; who practise the tikanga handed down to them; who observe their traditions, beliefs and values; who celebrate intellectual independence; and who are cultural specialists across a wide range of disciplines and indigenous research spaces. Graduates who have forged relationships and built broad professional networks that reach through our communities – our communities at home, nationally, and internationally; who are culturally aware and respectful, ready to hear any idea or opinion or perspective even if it differs from their own. Graduates who celebrate the diversity that difference brings."

Professor Doherty said graduates must use the opportunities that their education gives them to make a difference.
“Exercise your innovation, leadership and resilience,” Professor Doherty said. “You undertook the hard work of achieving your qualification because you wanted something to change. You wanted to drive change, and that is what you now must do. You must go out into the world and build new realities, shaped not by division but by unity and inclusion.”

Valedictorian Hauiti Hakopa urged graduates to continue to reframe unfavourable narratives about Māori potential and achievement.

“That is why we are here – to reframe the narratives. We are here to create new footprints for the generations that are not yet born. You have your wings. Now just set the new direction, the flight plan, and take flight.”

Three hundred students were formally capped at Friday’s ceremony in front of Mātaatua whare at Te Mānuka Tūtahi marae, receiving doctoral, masters, bachelor degree and certificate qualifications in a range of more than 20 programmes, including teaching, nursing, te reo Māori, performing arts, Māori Studies and Indigenous Studies.

Special awards were conferred as follows:

The Rotary Club Award for most improved first-year student in te reo Māori – Stephanie Maria Service; Te Ira Wairua, School of Iwi Development Top Scholar Award – Melissa Savage; Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Contribution to Iwi Development and Advancement Award – Te Kopua Marae; School of Undergraduate Studies Top Scholar Award – Jasmine Ruth Pirini; School of Indigenous Graduate Studies Top Scholar Award – Murray David Christopher Norris; Excellence in Te Reo Māori Award – Dick Ata; Emeritus Professor Roger Green ONZM Award for Top Thesis – Mary Dupuis; Te Onehou Eliza Phillis Award for Outstanding Iwi Research – Hauiti Hakopa.


Earlier in the day, hundreds of well-wishers including family, friends and school children lined the main street of Whakatāne to perform haka, sing waiata and cheer on a procession of gowned graduands, academic staff and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Council members.