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  • Te Rauaroha Tuhoro

Te Herenga Waka Student Association – VUWSA to adopt a new Māori name

VUWSA look to strengthen ties with Ngāi Tauira.


As the Victoria University of Wellington Student Association seek to adopt a new Māori name concerns arise, tauira Māori expressing worries over the efforts put into gifting an ingoa Māori to the association. We interviewed VUWSA president Ralph Zambrano to discuss accountability, intentions and partnership in the process of the upcoming name change.

Photo: VUWSA Building

Victoria University of Wellington Student Association (VUWSA) seek to change their name kia Māori ai as part of a strategic annual plan with the universities Māori association Ngāi Tauira (NT). As part of a revised memorandum of understanding that was redeveloped and signed off between VUWSA and NT last year, a name change was put into the works for the purpose of strengthening its ties with Te Herenga Waka’s Māori association.

Ralph Zambrano, president of VUWSA for 2022 informs “This year the tumuaki of Ngāi Tauira and I came together to think about what are the key focuses for our respective associations as well as our tauira, and a key aspect of that is what can we do to further strengthen the partnership between Ngai Tauira.”

“One of those aspects in strengthening that relationship was working on a new te reo Māori name because our current name was never really gifted by tauira to VUWSA; it was kinda just taken on as a translation of Victoria University Student Association.”

The groups current ingoa māori being just that, a bland translation – Te Rōpū Tauira o te Whare Wānanga o te Upoko ō te ika a māui (a mouthful too) – It was felt by Ralph and the exec that a new name was needed as this one did not quite “reflect the kaupapa of VUWSA and our role as the student association.”

The VUWSA president explained “For us, the purpose of creating a new name is about bringing back the mana to the Māori name that VUWSA has but also making sure that we uphold and respect the tikanga that surrounds it.”

Ralph stressed “we want it to be a living name, so it is past on through not just this years executive but it continues on well beyond Kelly, Mason [Tumuaki mō Ngāi Tauira] and I.”

To achieve this there have been a number of wānanga run by NT to discuss whakaaro and any concerns around the idea. Ralph explained it has been an eye opening experience allowing the opportunity to not only learn and engage with “really valuable insightful whakaaro from our students'' but have also been an opportunity to be held accountable to their intentions with their new name as well as VUWSA’s past misgivings.

“granted VUWSA hasn’t always been the best at upholding their responsibilities under Te Tiriti – so we are making sure we are properly advocating and self-aware of our impact to tauira Māori [at Te Herenga Waka] but also our obligation in working in a genuine partnership with Ngāi Tauira too.”

A real concern for tauira Māori at these wānanga was ‘how are VUWSA going to ensure we uphold the mana and tikanga of its new name?.’ Many worried that their efforts to gift a new one would end up in vain.

“For us we want to make sure that we have proper processes in place to continue to uphold the mana and tikanga and it isn’t something that we just do as a tick box exercise.” Ralph assured.

“One of the processes we are doing to address that is we are currently creating the Te Tiriti statute to kind of, embed Te Tiriti in the way that VUWSA engages as an association with tauira Māori but also with just te ao Māori in the way that we stand as a mainstream association.”

Ralph again stressed the aspect of accountability that has shone through as a common theme stating “What's been really cool is hearing and seeing what students think is VUWSA kaupapa and how they view VUWSA as their student association - hearing the value they hold with us. It's something you can easily forget”

“It's given me that added motivation to do this right,” hearing the value tauira Māori hold with VUWSA who are the core linkage between students and their student experience has prompted the association to reflect on this importance.

Sparking the running theme of ‘Aka’ this initiated kōrero around VUWSA being a key vine in which binds everyone together and has given insight to their position and importance to tauira Māori at Te Herenga Waka, this kōrero was significant to Ralph as he expressed “having that in our name means we do need to act on that and it is not just something we say.”

It is clear that this name-change has created a stepping stone in the partnership between VUWSA and their tauira Māori. Not just a cash-grab or a political stunt Ralph Zambrano and the rest of the VUWSA exec have created a capacity for tauira Māori to engage in a platform outside of Ngāi Tauira (of course, with the support of Ngāi Tauira).

What's next? The announcement. Wanting to introduce the name in a way that celebrates the efforts put in, Ralph discloses the new name will be announced and broadcasted “maybe with fireworks or smoke machines' ' at the end of September following VUWSA AGM.

Stay tuned.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.