A life-long learner at the core


A life-long learner at the core

November 18, 2020 | 4 min read

Tania (Ko Ngāti Awa te iwi. Ko Te Patuwai te hapū) joined Te Pūkenga this month. She has worked in numerous sectors and countries with people from all walks of life. She is eager to make a difference for all learners in Aotearoa so that their unique pathways to success are paved with enriching experiences like her own.

Tania says, “While I’m not from the education sector, I’ve had a breadth of experience in senior leadership roles that focus on enabling Māori and all New Zealanders to thrive, including public law, policy, strategy, economic development, governance, and people and organisational performance.

“At my core, I’m a life-long learner and a systems-thinker. I am interested in holistic solutions and understanding how the various parts are connected. I truly value the opportunity to be involved in designing the new vocational education system for this country, and I want my contribution to be towards a vocational education system that better reflects the value and identities of our learners, their whānau and communities.

“It is inspiring seeing the potential in our rangatahi coming through the pipeline. They have the world at their feet. Our biggest challenge is ensuring we create learner pathways and experiences truly centred around them, and this cannot be achieved by my role alone. This challenge requires all parts of the system to contribute. We’ll work together as a team, across roles, functions and locations – working towards a kaupapa larger than the individual parts of the network. The team is up for this challenge, and we’re here to contribute, not to keep seats warm.

“The kaupapa of Te Pūkenga means that this is not just a job; it’s part of my personal journey too. I understand the transformative nature of education from my own experience, which stood me in good stead internationally. I also understand that enduring outcomes are best achieved when people learn in an environment where they feel inherently valued. That is mana enhancing not only to an individual but to their whānau, and community. The opportunity to be involved in designing a vocational education system that inherently values our learners and who they are, while not fitting them into a box, was simply too good an opportunity for me to pass by, so here I am.

“As a commercial disputes resolution lawyer, I spent many years working abroad. The work was high profile and took me to some interesting places – from Liberia to Brazil. But I had a niggling feeling that I wanted to contribute in a more impactful way. I didn’t know what that was, but I knew I wanted to make myself a more useful human being. That is what has guided me in each of my roles since, including this one.

“It was while working for a Cambodian legal aid NGO supporting women, children and trafficking victims, that I learnt an important lesson in being humble. There I learnt the importance of empowering people and communities to lead change for themselves, and the power of really listening - not imposing a set of values and ideals onto people’s forward pathways.”

Currently living in Tāmaki Makaurau, Tania and her young family are excited about their relocation to Kirikiriroa at the end of this year where they’ll have more space, new places to explore and be closer to cousins and whānau.

Tania says, “I was fortunate to grow up in a whānau and community where I felt anything was possible, and I hope to be able to use my experience and skills to ensure the same holds true for others. A fair and equal Aotearoa where all our children can thrive is what I care most about in society. I see vocational education as a key pathway to better futures.”