• Te Ataakura Pewhairangi.

Inspiring the next generation

Te Ataakura Pewhairangi (Ngāti Porou) grew up with te reo Māori as her first language at home and school, not learning English until she was aged 13. The Māori TV broadcaster was the voice of Dora in the Māori translation of the popular children’s series, and currently tutors in te reo Māori at Massey University’s Auckland campus, Albany. She hopes her achievements will inspire other young Māori to follow their dreams.

The high-achieving Palmerston North born and raised academic, broadcaster and mum of two young children is passionate about fostering Māori knowledge and language through education and media. Her drive and commitment come from being raised by parents dedicated to ensuring their children were fully immersed in te reo Māori and te ao Māori.

Her parents are from a generation where “there was a huge need for parents to fight for the Māori language,” says Te Ataakura. “I was lucky enough to be born when the movement of kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori was established.”

Te Ataakura, who graduated with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) and has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori studies, broke new ground in her degree by completing all but one paper in te reo Māori. 

“Te reo Māori is my first language and thankfully Massey University acknowledges te reo Māori and therefore I was able to complete almost all of my assignments using my native tongue.”

She’d already done her assignments in te reo Māori for her BA and was not the first. “However, when I had asked my paper co-ordinators for my postgrad diploma in teaching, I was told this had never been done before (in the mainstream side). Massey allowed me to be Māori in my thoughts, my language and my practices.”

Now, Te Ataakura wants to be the example for her own children, future mokopuna, and her nieces and nephews, to show that “you can do it. So long as you have the right support network, anything is possible.”

Te Ataakura, who has also worked in Auckland as a presenter at Māori Television, says, “It’s important for us as advocates of te reo Māori to keep challenging the systems to normalise te reo Māori in every facet of society, so this is why I asked to complete my post grad dip in te reo Māori.”

Along with her siblings, she attended Palmerston North’s Mana Tamariki, where pre-school, primary and secondary schooling is delivered in te reo Māori. She completed schooling at the age of 16 with University Entrance, then moved to Auckland to start a career in television; the distance learning option allowed her to work and study concurrently.

Te Ataakura is now a senior tutor of Māori language papers and an introduction paper into te ao Māori at Massey’s Auckland campus and hopes to complete her master’s degree in the near future. Her brothers, Te Aorere and Apirana, are also Massey University Bachelor of Arts graduates and Apirana is a Senior Māori Cultural Advisor at the Auckland campus in Albany.

Te Ataakura, who was recently a judge at the Ngā Manu Kōrero secondary school speech competition held in Palmerston North, for both the senior Māori, Pei te Hurinui Jones, and junior Māori, Rāwhiti Ihaka, competitions, says she wants to be “an example for Māori across the nation. Even if it is to at least inspire one person to pursue education – whether a degree, or certificate, diploma, or going on to study masters,” she says.

Te Ataakura also took part in the Festival for the Future in Wellington in July, an event that attracts around 1200 young leaders, social entrepreneurs and students. She and her colleague Te Rā Moriarty ran workshops for festival-goers on Te Ao Māori (knowledge of the Māori world).

"I like to think of a korero that says ‘ko tātou ngā rangatira o āpōpō’ (‘We are the leaders for tomorrow’). In actual fact our leadership begins today. We don’t need to wait until we are in our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, to be a leader.”

Listen to Te Ataakura Pewheirangi talk about her learning journey on video: