Auckland University Awards Pioneers of Māori Education

Auckland University Awards Pioneers of Māori Education

Waipapa Taumata Rau felicitated Kaa Williams and Tāwhirimātea with honorary doctorates for their outstanding contribution to the research, promotion and development of Māori education and culture.

During a ceremony held at Waipapa Marae, the University of Auckland honored the esteemed Māori education pioneers, Tāwhirimātea (Tāwhiri) and Kaa Williams, by conferring upon them honorary doctorates of literature. The event, which took place on 20 March, included heartfelt waiata tautoko and haka, serving as a tribute to the couple’s steadfast dedication and contributions to the advancement of Māori education and culture. Attended by members of the Council, the Williams’ whānau, Māori leaders, and representatives from the University, it celebrated the couple’s inspirational roles as champions of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.

Recognized as the only Māori husband-and-wife team to receive the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2023 New Year’s Honours list, with Kaa already holding a QSO and Tāwhiri an MNZ, the couple has dedicated up to 60 years of collective service to Māori education. Their journey began with the establishment of the first bilingual kura in Ruatoki in 1977, followed by the founding of Auckland-based Te Wānanga Takiura o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa in 1990. Through the rumaki reo, or full immersion program, they have significantly increased the number of qualified te reo Māori teachers, thus contributing to the preservation of Māori heritage.

Tāwhiri serves as the chief executive at Takiura, while Kaa holds the position of pouako matua (senior lecturer). Associate Professor Te Kawehau Hoskins, the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori, delivered a stirring speech, acknowledging the Williams’ “inestimable contributions” to te ao Māori and Māori education, describing them as “our esteemed couple, the dream team.” Hoskins highlighted their enduring commitment to teaching and learning, noting their completion of a Master of Education with first-class honors at the University of Auckland in 2000.

In addition to their academic achievements, the couple established the Judge Karina Williams scholarship for the University’s Law School in 2013, in memory of their late daughter, who was also a graduate of the University and the second-ever wahine Māori appointed to the District Court. The scholarship, which recognizes cultural involvement, leadership, and academic merit, aims to nurture aspiring Māori lawyers, thus fostering transformative outcomes in Indigenous jurisprudence and the future of the nation.

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