Nurturing Māori and Pacific academics

15 Mar, 2023
11 appointees to the Eke Tangaroa programme standing in front of AUT's wharenui.

When he was growing up, Lefaoali'i Dion Enari knew he wanted to help his Samoan people in some way - but he didn’t know the path he would take.

It wasn’t until he was well into his doctorate in Samoan cultural sustainability that Dion Enari came upon AUT’s Eke Tangaroa programme to nurture Māori and Pacific early career academics.

“I remember thinking what an awesome and amazing initiative,” he says.

Dion Enari applied to the programme, was accepted, and is now a Lecturer in sport leadership and management at the University.

“I'm really excited and I’m really blessed to be able to be in this position to better serve our people, and hopefully, through my research and teaching, bring more of them along the way.”

To formally welcome the 13 talented Māori and Pacific kaihoe (appointees), like Dr Enari, who have been appointed to the Eke Tangaroa programme over the past two years, a pōwhiri and celebration of the programme was recently held at AUT’s Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae.

More than 80 people came together for this special event.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Wendy Lawson, who leads the Eke Tangaroa programme for AUT, says the programme is a taonga that the University is proud of.

“Making the choice to pursue an academic career is not an easy one,” she says.

“It is a decision which makes a real difference through our teaching and our research to the world in which we live. I wish our new kaihoe all the very best for success.”

Launched in 2015, Eke Tangaroa was designed to increase the number of Māori and Pacific academics at AUT by appointing early career academics and supporting them to establish research-active academic careers.

The programme has recently undergone a revamp, with Professor Georgina Tuari Stewart (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Maru ki Tainui) being appointed in August 2021 as the kaiurungi (navigator).

“For those starting in their first academic job, despite having a doctorate, it can sometimes feel like they are starting again as they learn how to teach at a university and navigate its systems. Helping guide kaihoe through this as their kaiurungi is a very fulfilling role.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori Advancement Professor Pare Keiha (Te Whānau-a-Taupara o Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, and Rongowhakaata) says the Eke Tangaroa programme is about delivering on the promises enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“I deeply and profoundly mihi to all the kaihoe for the work that they will do. As academics we have the best job in the world because we have the opportunity to change young people’s lives, their whānau and the communities in which they were born, forever.”

Lecturer Deb Heke, who is also one of the new kaihoe, says she was supported while doing her doctorate at AUT by the MAI ki Aronui group for Māori and Indigenous research students, and that now with her appointment as a kaihoe it feels like an extension of that support.

Dr Heke says she particularly values the support the kaiurungi has given her in working out how to construct her academic career.

“I really appreciate that - and also, that we can move through this space, this weird academic space as Māori and Pacific scholars, to do the work that we feel passionate about for the communities that we feel passionate about.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Damon Salesa says the kaihoe are a group of early career academics who matter deeply to the University.

"They can hold their heads high and know that the steps they take are powerful steps for our future.”

Recently appointed Eke Tangaroa kaihoe

2022 cohort:

Dion Henare, Lecturer, Clinical Sciences (Ngāti Whatua)

Hilda Port, Lecturer, Clinical Sciences (Tonga)

Te Wai Barbarich-Unasa, Lecturer, Māori Health (Waikato-Tainui, Ngaati Paaoa, Ngaati Maniapoto)

Antony Vavia, Lecturer, Science (Cook Islands)

Yvonne Ualesi, Lecturer, Education (Samoa, Tokelau, Fiji)

Cecelia Faumuina, Lecturer, Art & Design (Samoa, Tonga)

Toi Williams, Lecturer, Te Ara Poutama (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tai, Te Whānau ā Apanui)

Tangaroa Paora, Lecturer, Te Ara Poutama (Muriwhenua)

2021 cohort:

Dion Enari, Lecturer, Sport and Recreation (Samoa)

Deborah Heke, Lecturer, Māori Health (Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa)

Leilani Walker, Lecturer, Science (Te Whakatōhea)

Rachel Peters, Lecturer, Communication Studies (Ngātiwai) ​​​​​​​

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