National network aims to empower voices of Māori in Postgraduate study

By Te Ao - Māori News

Master of Architecture student Kelsey Metcalfe (Te Aupōuri) hopes to further amplify and empower the voices of Māori and Pacific Island students in postgraduate study. 

Kelsey is the site coordinator for MAI ki Wairaka, the latest addition of students joining the national support network of Te Kupenga o MAI established by Professor Graham Smith and Professor Linda Smith in the 1990s. 

The MAI ki Wairaka project funded by New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga provides postgraduate students access to a support network of hundreds of peers and mentors across the country.  

Supported by Ngā Wai ā Te Tūī (NWaTT) students form MAI ki Wairaka are looking forward to advancing further on the gains made in research and education by those before them. 

Kelsey says the project will help encourage more Māori and indigenous students to pursue further education while ensuring those currently on the journey have the right support. 

“Postgraduate study is challenging and isolating in which support systems are very few for us, these are only a few of the many challenges that we face and that’s why this kaupapa is so important, not only to provide the support that we need but also to allow us to assert ourselves within these environments that don’t understand or reflect us.” 

NWaTT Director, Professor Jenny Lee Morgan (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Mahuta), says, “We are really excited to host Mai ki Wairaka because as a kaupapa Māori and indigenous research centre, our postgraduate students here are part of who we are and we are all continuously learning through research.” 

Kelsey believes that networks like this will help Māori and Pacific Island students realise their own potential and help them build success and understanding for themselves, their whānau, hapū, iwi and future generations to come. 

"So much has been achieved but there is still so much more work to be done, especially within institutions like Unitec. The legitimisation of the value of our cultural knowledge and resources is an ongoing issue and many Māori and Pacific Island students have to go outside of our homogenous education system to learn or understand our true value.”