National | Education

Māori students march to grad despite procession being cancelled

A small group of Māori Bachelor of Nursing students marched to their Whitireia graduation ceremony today despite the planned procession being cancelled earlier this week.  They were flanked by their families and tutors to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter.

Roni Taikato (Ngāti Raukawa, Tūhoe, Ngāruahine) says "for some people it might not seem like a big deal but for some of us this we are first generation to get our degree some of us are following tuakana (older siblings) who have had their degrees and just to be told no you can't [walk] with no reasoning why."

Naomi Waipouri (Ngai Tai, Ngāti Ngahere, Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara, Te Rarawa) says "we did our own procession we did it for not only ourselves but for our whānau, hapū and iwi and those who come after us."

The 16 nurses are part of about 600 others expected to cross the graduation stage.

Cherie Kopa (Raukawa, Ngāti Huia)  wore a special family korowai that was made for her late cousin’s graduation from Te Wānanga o Raukawa.

"It was given to me so I can graduate in it as well, he's passed on so it will be really nice just to [wear it],” she says.

They were told Monday there would be no graduation procession.

Shonell Nicholls (Ngāti Porou) says she was “extremely disappointed”.

“I was also really upset because I feel this is our last hike in this part of our journey and my whānau were really upset too because it's such an hounor and a privilege."

It's the first time that Whitireia and Weltec have combined graduation ceremonies and that's one reason Friday’s procession was cancelled.

Whitireia and WelTec Chief Executive Chris Gosling says this year two different ceremonies were held at Te Rauparaha Arena and two others at Wellington city’s Michael Fowler Centre. Cancelling the processions ensured a consistent experience for all graduates.

“There is no procession possible for the Michael Fowler centre because of being in the central city so we made the decision that it wasn't logistically possible that we have four different processions.”

Donnella Waipouri says daughter Naomi started her degree at 17-years-old and worked four hard years to get to where she is today.

"For [the institutions] not to do it I feel it was very unfair and I just feel that it's very important that they walk so everybody around here can see these girls are capped. These young Māori rangatahi are capped today and what a proud moment not just for me but for all Māori.”

Mr Gosling says feedback has been received and the decision will be reviewed for next year's graduations.