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  • Antonia Quinn

Challenging ‘Imposter Syndrome’ for young Māori in the corporate sector

Tupu Toa is on a mission. That mission is to see more Māori and Pasifika leaders in the corporate sector. How? By building pathways for our people to transition from grads to yo-pro’s (young working professionals) - through programmes such as internships, workshops and cadetships.

Image: Tupu Toa

We had a kōrero with Kawa Stirling, nō Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa me Rongomaiwahine, who not only went through the programme as an intern - but has returned as a kaimahi or ‘Navigator’ to help the next reanga battle ‘imposter syndrome’ and launch their career pathway in the corporate sector.


What led you on this journey to being a part of TupuToa?

I actually applied to the kaupapa back in 2020 when I was finishing off my BA at the University of Waikato. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to work with tauira/rangatahi Māori, Pasifika and/or Indigenous in regards to Mental Wellbeing in some way, shape or form. I was lucky enough to be confirmed for an internship through TupuToa at Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections, in the Mental Health & Addictions teams based in the Health Services in their National Office and then secured full-time employment with them after my internship too. After working in that role for a while and recognising the experience and exposure that I had gained, I decided I wanted to reconnect with my passions and give back to one of the kaupapa that helped me to start my career by applying for a Navigator’s role with Tupu Toa based in Te Whanganui a Tara. I wanted to give others the opportunity to experience what I had and now, I’ve been here for a year and loving it!

What is the most rewarding part about your role?

It’s different for everyone but I think for me it's seeing the tauira that come through the programme who recognise so many things about themselves that they didn’t recognise before. The leadership capabilities, being brave in trying something new, the different communication styles, breaking out of the ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and overthinking that can really cripple us as Māori and Pacific peoples. It’s really beautiful to see changes and growth in different ways through different people.

Do you have any encouragement for tauira Māori and Pasifika that you wish someone had said to you after you had finished studies?

I’d say there’s 3 things that come to mind: you grow through what you go through, be open to opportunity and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think we all place a lot of pressure on our shoulders to ‘succeed’ for our whānau because for a lot of us we're reaching different levels and navigating different situations to that of our parents and grandparents.


Success looks different to everyone, don’t be too hard on yourself if your paths change from time to time so when opportunity presents itself to you – give it a go! At the end of the day, everything is a lesson not a loss; you’re gonna learn what you like or don’t like, you’re gonna pick up new skills or learn that you have the capability you just may not have realised at the time.

Be kind to yourself along the way too because it’s going to be uncomfortable in parts, but like a kākano; it’s about breaking through the shell to grow.

I suppose one seed for thought is that at this exact point in time, we’re all someone’s mokopuna and we’re all going to be someone’s tipuna; so what foundations are you going to lay? What would you want to be known for by your uri?


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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