Indigenous | Tairāwhiti - East Coast

Tōnui Collab wins big at Matihiko awards for STEMM education in Tairāwhiti

Tōnui Collab's Kiri Wilson, Atareta Karin, and Shanon O'Connor were recognised at the Te Hapori Matihiko Awards. Photo / Supplied

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Tōnui Collab, a Tairawhiti-based innovator in bilingual STEMM education, achieved a triple whammy at this year’s Matihiko awards.

Te Hapori Matihiko Awards highlight and celebrate organisations and individuals who demonstrate excellence in leveraging technology to advance Māori interests and contribute to the community’s development.

Tōnui Collab was recognised for its contribution to advancing science, technology, engineering, mathematics and mātauranga Māori education (STEMM).

The Changer Maker Award went to STEMM navigator Kiri Wilson, recognising her mahi facilitating STEMM wānanga in kura throughout Tairāwhiti.

This included the Kōhine Robotics kaupapa that supported 50 kōhine to participate in wānanga throughout last year and develop their leadership skills, confidence and technical skills with robotics, and learn about study and career pathways.

Wilson said she was overwhelmed and grateful for the acknowledgment.

“I am one of four wāhine in our Tōnui Collab team. These achievements are an acknowledgment to our team and the passion we thrive on for STEMM pathways.

One of the kaupapa of Tōnui Collab was teaching students Edward Siale, Okaire Lewis and Hone Katipa, of Horouta Wānanga, to take apart and recycle old laptops and devices. Photo / Paul Rickard

“How fortunate are we to have Te Hapori Matihiko create an event that celebrates kaupapa like Tōnui Collab and, more importantly, Māori working in digital and tech in Aotearoa and abroad?

“The event captured many champions and great minds — from pakeke to rangatahi.”

The Innovator Award was won by Tōnui Collab director Shanon O’Connor, in recognition of her leadership in addressing inequitable STEMM learning opportunities for rangatahi in Tairāwhiti by establishing Tōnui Collab Charitable Trust five years ago.

The Kaupapa Award went to the Tōnui Collab charitable trust as a whole.

It recognises its innovative use of technology to enhance learning experiences and accessibility in STEMM fields for Māori students.

As the only reo rua (bilingual) STEMM education provider in Aotearoa, since 2019, Tōnui Collab has facilitated STEMM wānanga for over 54,000 taitamariki across Tairāwhiti.

It partners with marae, kura and industry partners to educate taitamariki and their whānau about a future in STEMM.

“Tōnui Collab’s commitment to promoting cultural relevance and language preservation through STEMM education has significantly impacted Māori learner outcomes,” O’Connor said.

By combining indigenous knowledge with cutting-edge educational practices, Tōnui Collab has fostered a unique learning environment that empowers taitamariki Māori to excel in STEM disciplines while honouring their cultural heritage.

“We are deeply honoured to receive these awards,” O’Connor said. “This recognition underscores our dedication to creating inclusive educational opportunities that resonate with Māori values and aspirations.

“Our team is passionate about bridging the gap in STEMM education and empowering the next generation of Māori leaders.

“Te Hapori Matihiko Awards draw visibility to Māori across the motu thriving in tech. It was inspiring.

“We had rangatahi alongside us who had not heard of many of the roles held by these award nominees before, but they connected with the people — their tuakiri, their manaaki — and that inspired our rangatahi to learn more about a future in tech.

“They found a community they want to be a part of.

“We have established a kaupapa that is generating interest across te motu and we are focused on growing the kaupapa for the betterment of our tamariki — at removing barriers at every point along the pathway, so that our tamariki can grow and thrive in tech.“Many comment that there is limited opportunities to work in tech Te Tairāwhiti, but we are reminded on occasions like this that tech is across all industries and we need to work together to increase the visibility.

“On Saturday night, we celebrated alongside tech champions from a number of companies that are from the Tairāwhiti, or contributing to tech kaupapa in Te Tairāwhiti such as Ngāti Porou Hauora, Tai Tech Trust, Taiki E, Next Chapter, Digital Future Aotearoa and Weta FX,” she said.

Wilson said she was also excited to see the number of women at the event.

Tōnui Collab recently moved into the Mātai Medical Research Institute (Childers Road) after creating a partnership with them.

“This burgeoning partnership enables rangatahi to see engineers, physicists, technologists doing impactful work that is globally recognised and benefits our community,” O’Connor said.

Along with Tōnui Collab winning, Gisborne’s Mere Takoko (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Rongowhakaata) won the Kaitiaki o te Taiao Award for her mahi with the Hinemoana Halo, a conservation international kaupapa that supports Māori to protect, care for, manage and monitor New Zealand coastal waters and high seas in partnership with local communities.

Matai O’Connor, Ngāti Porou, has been a journalist for five years and kaupapa Māori reporter at the Gisborne Herald for two years.

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