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Te Ataakura Pewhairangi (Ngāti Porou) grew up in Palmerston North with te reo Māori as her first language at home and school, not learning English until she was aged 13. She did her Bachelor of Arts and teaching degree entirely in te reo Māori. The Māori TV broadcaster was the voice of Dora in the Māori translation of the popular children’s series, and hopes her achievements will inspire other young Māori to follow their dreams.
The high-achieving Palmerston North-born and raised academic, broadcaster and mum of two young children is passionate about fostering Māori knowledge and language through education and media. Her drive and commitment comes from being raised by parents dedicated to ensuring their children were fully immersed in Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori.
Her parents are from a generation where "there was a huge need for parents to fight for the Māori language."
"I was lucky enough to be born when the movement of kohanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori was established."
Te Ataakura, who graduated with a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) and has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori studies, also from Massey, broke new ground in her degree by completing all but one paper in te reo.
"Te reo Māori is my first language and thankfully Massey University acknowledges te reo Māori and therefore I was able to complete almost all of my assignments using my native tongue."
She'd already done her assignments in te reo Māori for the BA and was not the first. "However, when I had asked my paper co-ordinators for my post grad dip in teaching, I was told this had never been done before (in the mainstream side). Massey allowed me to be Māori in my thoughts, my language and my practices."
Now, Te Ataakura wants to be the example for her own children, future mokopuna, her nieces and nephews, to show that "you can do it. so long as you have the right support network, anything is possible."
Te Ataakura, who has also worked in Auckland as a presenter at Māori Television, says, "It's important for us as advocates of te reo Māori to keep challenging the systems to normalise te reo Māori in every facet of society, so this is why I asked to complete my post grad dip in te reo Māori."
Along with her siblings, she attended Palmerston North's Mana Tamariki, where pre-school, primary and secondary schooling is delivered in te reo Māori. She completed schooling at the age of 16 with University Entrance, then moved to Auckland to start a career in television and the distance learning option allowed her to work and study concurrently.
She is now tutoring Māori language papers and an introduction paper into te ao Māori at Massey's Auckland campus and hopes to complete her master's in the near future.
"I want to be an example for Māori across the nation. Even if it is to at least inspire one person to pursue education – whether a degree, or certificate, diploma, or going on to study masters," she says.
"I like to think of a korero that says ‘ko tātou ngā rangatira o āpōpō' (We are the leaders for tomorrow). In actual fact our leadership begins today. We don't need to wait until we are in our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, to be a leader."