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As a Pākehā with Dutch tipuna, it’s a privilege to be able to write a column for this special issue of Salient.
Te Ao Mārama has been published for over 40 years now, having been first published during the push to revitalise Te Reo Māori in the 1970s. This magazine would’ve been one of the first signs that attitudes towards Te Reo were shifting after decades of oppression. Given that most other students’ associations around the country still haven’t constitutionally enshrined the publication of a dedicated Te Reo issue, in many ways this magazine can still be seen as a leader in the ongoing mission to revitalise and celebrate Te Reo.
In terms of the wider picture of how we fully honour and acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we still have a way to go here at VUWSA, Victoria, and as a country as a whole.
Victoria is making some progress; enrollments and completion rates of Māori students are steadily improving year on year. The Government has made increasing the rate of Māori obtaining tertiary qualifications a priority in how it allocates funding, and this is leading to a long-overdue cultural shift among universities.
Victoria was recently commended by the Tertiary Education Commission as one of the leading universities in this area.
I’ve been inspired by my counterparts at Ngāi Tauria who have shown a deep dedication to fostering improving a sense of community and belonging for Māori students at Victoria, as well as a desire to improve Victoria so that more tamariki can share the benefits of tertiary education.
There’s still a long way to go though. Our fantastic mentoring and support programmes such as Te Pūtahi Atawhai have proven to be pivotal in improving our academic successes. Yet, they’re at capacity and receive no central funding from the University—it all comes from our Student Services Levy. Investment in these programmes must be made a priority.
The wider university must listen when concerns are raised but more importantly act. There have been occasions when this has not happened, leading to detrimental outcomes.
The Treaty is, at its heart, a partnership document. It’s what gives Pākehā like me the ability to live on this land. As a community we must all work on deepening our understanding and most of all honour it.