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  • Te Rauaroha Tuhoro

Te tira hou | Te Akatoki

UC Māori students home away from home.

Te Tira hou is a profile series in which we take a look into the māori university associations across the motu and discover what each individual association is all about. This week we chat with Te Akatoki tumuaki Rosa Hibbert-Schooner on the unique experience of Māori students attending University of Canterbury and what makes Te Akatoki…Te Akatoki.

Pikitia: Te Akatoki

Upon Tāwhaki nui a Hema’s ascent to retrieve ngā kete matauranga, armed with his toki - He toki ngao pae ki te ao marama, stems the name of UC māori students home away from home arā ko Te Whare Akonga o te Akatoki.

Established in 1986 by former HOD of Aotahi Bill Nepia and son Michael Nepia, Te Akatoki can be reasonably boiled down to one word…“Manaaki-tangata” (yeah technically two words but you get it).

In a city that can often feel foreign to rangatahi māori, the whanaungatanga and drive for each other's success can be felt just by walking into the whare of Te Akatoki and is quite frankly a pivotal aspect to the associations foundation. From a food-filled whare to creating their own social sports league Te Akatoki strive for a prosperous space for its students.

As said best by Rosa Hibbert-Schooner, tumuaki of Te Akatoki for 2022 “It’s all about rangatahi māori success. We aim for that, we want that, we do that.” As an association with little support from its university, navigating this space can prove to be at times a challenge, especially for tauira māori at UC. Rosa describes it as a “double edged sword in that you learn how to do advocacy and there's lots of whanaungatanga but all as a result of not getting enough support from where we should ''.

Though much like its alumni, most notably Tā Apirana Ngata (not to flex or anything), despite this adversity Te Akatoki prove to be resilient and a welcoming space. The aim for any māori university association will, ahakoa te aha, always be the success of its students and the purpose will be forever to support this.

But what makes Te Akatoki unique on this front? Ngā Pou. Ko te Pou Hono, ko te Pou Taiao, ko te Pou Ahurea, ko te Pou Hauora. These pou set in place by its executive committee to ensure the longevity of Te Akatoki and are used to govern themselves, safeguarded for their sustainability.

Mō wai? The generations of successful māori students to come.

Te Akatoki have demonstrated they are experts in wielding their tools for māori success aligned with these pou. Already Te Akatoki have seen an improvement in numbers in not only the whare itself but social events like Wednesday Kapa Haka and (free) Dinner. As well as an increase of advocacy across the campus, as Rosa wholesomely puts it “The Whare is warm again.”

Yes, Te Akatoki is put simply (and boringly) an engagement space for tauira māori at UC. But its current students prove it has evolved extraordinarily from the days it was....just a kapahaka group.

Maturing from a dream for a stand-alone space for its tauira māori, armed with the toki of Tāwhaki and their precedent mana to challenge its universities mainstream, Te Akatoki continue to be a voice for its tauira. As Rosa see’s it, “it is time to takeover” as this years exec seek to fight for Pay parity for their tumuaki, 24/7 access to their whare and a Paid Staff member to care for their whare..

Te Akatoki has become a real space of manaakitanga drawing its strength from its active Ngāi Tahu communal support and its hononga to tauira past and present. Living up to its namesake, Te Akatoki is a space of student determination, success and mana. It has become a real home for tauira most ordinarily away from home, a place to thrive with a whanau of unwavering holistic support. “Its whats kept me here for 3 years” says Rosa.

So, to those prospective University of Canterbury rangatahi (and parents) nervous about becoming a māori student in Ōtautahi, Rest assured. Not only is Te Akatoki the hub of social events for tauira māori at UC and the place that will provide for both your matauranga māori and academic needs . Amongst a whole lot of other things, the whanau at Te Akatoki are fierce with their manaakitanga, you will without a doubt be safe in the hands of Te Whare Akonga o Te Akatoki.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.


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