First grandchild to graduate for Rangiheuea whānau

By Heeni Brown

Kawerau bred Jordan Rangiheuea is proud to be one of the 165 Māori students graduating from AUT's Faculty of Health of Environmental Sciences.

The Ngāti Awa descendant is also the first Rangiheuea mokopuna to receive an undergraduate degree.

Jordan Rangiheuea says, "I've got 26 first cousins, I'm the only person to have gone to university out of the 26 and I think he realised that was a special day and he just wanted to come and support me and just acknowledge what I've done. It means the world to me to have him here."

Her 81-year-old grandfather Te Arawa leader Anaru Rangiheuea has travelled from Rotorua to witness the occasion and says her Bachelors of Health Science in Psychology is an outstanding achievement.

Anaru Rangiheuea says, "Despite the hardships she's left here with her degree. It's a very important day for me, I come in support of her because when her father died this family went through a very hard time."

Both Anaru and Jordan continue to mourn the loss of son and father Eric Rangiheuea who passed away aged 46.

Ten years ago Eric died of liver cancer and Jordan has dedicated her success to her father.

Jordan says, "I went and saw him the other day and I just said we did it. I did it for you and most of all I did it for me."

Other Māori graduates include 30-year-old Dane Kereopa who received his Bachelors of Health Science in Physiotherapy.

He's been a personal trainer for years and wants to encourage more Māori and Pasifika to follow a career in the health sector. 

Kereopa says, "Choose something that you want to do, start young. I'm old, I'm an older graduand and I wish I had've done it 10 years ago, so I really encourage people to go."

There are a total of 12,500 students who make up the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences but only 12% are Māori students.

Māori health professor Denise Wilson says there needs to be more Māori working in health. 

Wilson says, "I think at a minimum our Māori services should reflect the local population, so in some areas that might be 15% but in other areas it's like 30% or more."