Letter from the tumuaki

By Rosa Hibbert-Schooner

To all tauira Māori in tertiary education, I commend you.

I commend you, for entering these institutions to better yourself, your whānau and hāpori. I commend you, for being one of the few indigenous people in your class. I commend you, for being in white institutions that do not always support your ahurea, your reo, your tikanga, your voice and your value as a tauira Māori.

Our voices as Tauira Māori are so undervalued in the tertiary space. Te Akatoki Māori Students’ Association, alongside all Māori student rōpū across Aotearoa, are not being valued or supported in a way that honors Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We are paid differently to our Pākehā counterparts, we are excluded from many conversations, we are under-resourced and we are the ones constantly having to work harder to make it better. As Tumuaki of Te Akatoki and the representative on the student executive board of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association (UCSA) I say this; not one more minute will we be undervalued.

It is often forgotten how valuable it is to have Rangatahi Māori in these spaces. We are the ones called on in times of cultural need. We are the ones asked to correct cultural practices and asked for last minute ‘cultural performances’. We are the poster children for the apparent ‘biculturalism’ of your institution – our value as Māori is constantly tokenised.

I tērā wiki, I resigned from my position on the UCSA executive as the Te Akatoki representative. No other delegate will be filling this space, until this role is remunerated and valued equally. Currently the Te Akatoki role is paid a $1600 honorarium per annum, compared to the $5,200 that general executive members receive. On top of this our UCSA president is paid $53,679 per annum (before tax). This situation and difference in remuneration is very similar to Te Rōpū Māori from University of Otago and OUSA. We would like to acknowledge that this does not reflect on individuals but on the institutionalised racism that needs to be addressed and changed. 

The UCSA has agreed to begin to discuss the changing of this role and Te Akatoki will proceed with this; under the condition that the appropriate people (Te Akatoki and experienced Māori in bi-culturalism and partnerships) are included and leading this change. Te Akatoki will still be involved in advocating for our students as an association during this process and will never stop this. However, we will stop accepting unequal treatment in this role. For our rangatiratanga. For those who will come after us.

This is a national issue. I would like to use our story, our protest as a wero to all student associations and unions and every space that has a Māori voice at it. If you are not equally valuing a voice that sits at the same table as you do, consider where the issues truly lie. If you want Māori to ‘prove’ the mahi that they do, walk down the road from your state of the art building to our modest Whare, and see the support we provide on the daily. Come to the events

Māori students have to run for ourselves weekly. Come to all the different kaupapa we support and see the catering , the organising, the speaking, the performing and the manaaki we provide.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Ahurea, Hītori, Tikanga and Whakapapa of the land we all reside on, is what weaves us together. Investing, resourcing and putting value in us, our voices, our culture and our passion is what will sustain this.

Te Rōpū Māori, e mihi kau ana ki a koutou. Ka whawhai mātou i ō tātou taha, mō ake tonu atu. 

Nō reira, Ko tēnei te wero mō koutou. Hikina te manuka!!!!

Te Akatoki! HI! Tu whakatika! HA!