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March 18, 2019 | by  | in Ngāi Tauira | [ssba]

Te Kainga

By Nā Pounamu Tipiwai Chambers

Te Herenga waka I E! Ko Te Herenga Waka taku tai tuarā, taku whakaruruhau. Tīhei Te Herenga Waka!


Our marae is more than just a building, it is a representation of what a ‘home’ should be. It is a support network, a connection to our people, and a place to hitch our canoe. Te Herenga Waka is our place of belonging, and more importantly—our space to be Māori. From the O-Week pōwhiri to the end-of-year graduation, Te Herenga Waka is our centre point. Without this grounding space and place to be who we want to be, it is very likely that tauira would struggle within the westernised environment of our university.

On the windy path of university, it becomes clear that a simple structure with four solid walls can actually go a long way. A stable and safe living environment is a mandatory requirement, because without one, students are left unsettled and unbalanced. As tauira we are trying our best to stay afloat in the unfamiliarity of this big, crazy city and it is not an easy place to live. The rent prices are ridiculous and the availability of quality homes is one of the biggest factors we are challenged by—which in the end, sadly stops the rest of our whānau from coming to university. Our own parents can’t even afford houses near our university campuses, hence tauira are forced to live on the outskirts which creates further problems as the cost of transport brings further financial pressure.  

It’s hard knowing that to many tauira home is “a box” or a cold and lonely building. We as Māori need connection; we need stability and we need comfort and the one thing that supports all of these needs is the idea of a kainga. When I hear the word ‘kainga’ I think belonging and meaning, I think of warmth and care and the idea of whānau. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to stay in our Māori accommodation here at Victoria known to many as ‘Whānau House’. This gives me a connection to a place, a group of students that are my family, and more importantly a roof over my head that doesn’t leave me with negatives in my bank account. Although it is not cheap, a whānau house is the most affordable place to live, in a great location, with a view over the city and the ocean.

The student living experience has taught me some of the greatest life lessons. It is kainga such as Te Herenga Waka and whānau house, indigenised ways of living, which truly bring a lot of benefit for tauira Māori, providing both shelter and support in more ways than one could imagine. Having balance, stability, and a sense of connection to the places we live in is what differentiates a house from a home. I am lucky to live where I do and am truly grateful for the fights that have been fought, so that we can have the kainga we have today.  


Ngā mihi


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