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July 26, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Kōrero Whakataki

I’m not sure if you noticed, but last week’s Re-Orientation week was smaller than in previous years. This was because of Victoria University’s cap on new domestic enrolments for trimesters two and three. Here at Ngāi Tauira, we cancelled our re-orientation barbecues—a traditional way to reach new students—because no new domestic enrolments means no new Māori students.

This got me thinking, both about how I was lucky to have enrolled at Victoria University in June 2009 and not June 2010, and about all the changes that have been made to New Zealand’s tertiary education sector over the past year. We’ve seen changes to access to the training incentive allowance, student loans and student allowances; managed enrolments have been introduced at Victoria University; and there’s the possibility of the VSM bill becoming a reality—just to name a few.

It can be hard to keep an eye on these changes when you are a student struggling to pass your courses, most likely with a part-time job to supplement your allowance or living costs. But it is important that we keep an eye on these changes. And it is even more vital that Māori students are aware of these changes, because when wholesale changes are made to a sector of society, it is minorities who are marginalised. For example, Māori are traditionally second chance learners at the tertiary level, enrolling in their 20s after taking a break from institutional education after high school. Victoria University’s introduction of managed enrolments to control the swelling student numbers will affect these mature Māori students, potentially cutting their access to tertiary education. And if the VSM bill succeeds and Ngāi Tauira is removed from, or restricted within the Victoria University campus, tauira will lose a support network which helps to interpret an individualistic Pākehā education system for students who are accustomed to whanaungatanga and manaakitanga. So what to do?

Keep on top of changes to the tertiary education sector by reading Salient, watching the news, and talking to your fellow tauira and staff at university. Whanaungatanga among Māori is vital, especially with all these changes happening, and this week’s celebration of Te Wiki o Te Reo (Māori Language) is a prime example of Māori coming together as a whānau to celebrate our tikanga and reo Māori. The theme for this year’s Te Wiki O Te Reo as chosen by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (The Māori Language Commission) is ‘Te Mahi Kai’, The Language of Food. Te Taura Whiri chose this topic because they wanted “an activity-based theme to promote and widen spoken language in communities”. And you can see how this theme works for yourself if you come to Te Herenga Waka Marae on the Kelburn campus for one of their $6 lunches—take a look at pages 28 and 29 for some reo that you could use when you come over for lunch.

Te Taura Whiri’s theme foreshadowed Māori Party MP Rahui Katene’s member’s bill on the removal of GST from healthy food being selected from parliament’s ballot in April. However, with John Key last week announcing that the National Party will not be supporting this bill, it looks very unlikely to pass. This means that the current government has passed on the opportunity to address Māori obesity and the deaths of 11,000 New Zealanders every year due to poor diet, because of bureaucracy.

However, Māori have already upheld whanaungatanga and introduced community-based initiatives to tackle our obesity epidemic. Marton’s marae-based project to provide the community with fresh organic vegetables has been established across four marae. Not only does the project encourage healthy eating, it brings the community together in a Māori environment. You can also check out the community garden article about Owhiro Bay and the creative piece on the marae-based community garden in Taranaki on pages 34 and 34. Also, under the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Eating Healthy Action strategy plan, Māori have introduced initiatives to promote healthy eating, such as Oranga Tū Tonu in Te Arawa and Ngāti Tuwharetoa and the Hora te Pai Health Service at Te Runanga o Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai. These initiatives are an example for us tauira here at Victoria University of how we can work within Pākehā frameworks and create our own Māori support structure to counteract policy changes. By drawing together under a common goal we can enact our whanaungatanga and support each other on our journey toward academic success.

So even if you are not a speaker of Te Reo Māori, take a look at this edition of Te Ao Marama and join us in our celebration of Te Reo Māori. We’ve included information on how and where you can learn Te Reo Māori, so you can hopefully better understand next year’s edition, maybe over a cup of tea and sticky bun at Te Herenga Waka Marae.

Nā Maria Williams
Tumuaki Tuarua (Mātauranga) o Ngāi Tauira
Vice President (Education) of Ngāi Tauira (Victoria University’s Maori Students’ Association)

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