National | Education

"Aotearoa's great, but there's so much more" - Rangatahi mull NZDF future

Students Teaukutai Devon James Cook and Tanykah Wilson have decided to join the New Zealand Defence Forces when they finish school.

The pair made their decision this week after being put through their paces at a careers experience alongside 38 other students.

Cook, of Ngāpuhi, Tainui and Te Rarawa, wants to join to be able to help communities around Aotearoa and the world.

“But the most important thing is that I can look after my family financially, spiritually and mentally,” he says.

#LIVE Out on the harbour with Māori students training at Navy Base. Watch more of the action tonight on Te Ao at 6.30pm.

Posted by Te Ao Māori News on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Both Cook and Wilson prefer doing hands-on work as opposed to going to university.

“I definitely want to do some hands-on work because it’s a lot more fun and the classroom isn’t really my style- and coming here, getting out on the ocean seems awesome,” says Wilson.

As a young woman, she also wants to prove women can succeed in the Navy.

"I can take the challenge,” she says. “See how many males I can outrun.  I just want to challenge myself and challenge other people, I want to get the wāhine in there because we need more in here."

Students ride in the Navy Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (Source: File).

The careers experience was held over three days with each day focusing on the three different force-related trades in the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

“It’s showing them what the Navy has to offer and the different aspects of the Navy, being out on the water, working as part of a small team.  Recent statistics show that in early 2019 there were 1,904 personnel working in the entire forces who identify as Māori.  That’s 12.5 percent of the entire force of around 16,000, so they are looking for more," says staff sergeant Nadia Pou-Edwards.

"We've worked alongside the Rising Foundation from South Auckland but we've also gone out to some of the other South Auckland Schools and approached them for students to come on this experience as well."

Students being briefed on activities for the day. Source: File

For many Māori rangatahi, Pou-Edwards says the act of serving their community is in their blood.

"Just the way that we're built, we're all about hard work, just tucking in and getting things done- and being in the Defence Force is what it’s all about, just getting in there, getting the mahi done."

Cook and Wilson, both 17, don’t need any convincing to get involved.  They can already see the benefits, including not having to get a student loan and new opportunities to travel around the world.

“My biggest dream is to get a position as a sports teacher.  That’s what I aspire to be in the Navy,” says Cook.

Wilson says she might want to captain a ship one day.

“That seems pretty cool to me- and just being in there, doing the mahi,” she says.

“Travelling is a big one for me.  Aotearoa's great, but you know, there's so much more.”

Students ride in the Navy Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (Source: File).