Tertiary study has opened EIT valedictorian Natasha Hau’s eyes to “a world of opulence” where the treasures to be valued are spirituality, knowledge and guidance rather than material possessions.
Formerly from Wairoa, the Flaxmere-based Bachelor of Arts (Māori) graduand will be addressing the afternoon session of Friday’s (March 23) graduation ceremony, to be staged at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House in Hastings.
Now studying for her honours degree at EIT’s Te Manga Māori, Tash isn’t daunted by the prospect of speaking to the large audience of fellow graduates, friends, family and EIT staff who will be attending the formal event.
“I believe in tackling one thing at a time,” says the mother of four. “Otherwise the demands get on top of you.”
Conflicting classes prevented Tash – whose iwi is Ngāti Wai– from signing up for Māori studies at high school.
Her grandparents are steeped in Māoritanga and Tash was also a member of Wairoa’s kapa haka, Te Rerenga Kotuku. She remains eternally grateful for those influences in her life but still wanted to more fully immerse herself in her culture by learning Te Rēo Māori.
That journey started four years ago when she enrolled for EIT’s Certificate in Māori Studies (Level 2) – her stepping stone to the degree programme.
“Each day I became more and more engrossed in what I was doing. I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want to stop.”
Tash likens EIT’s School of Māori Studies, Te Manga Māori, to a whanau environment where students, staff and lecturers support one another in meeting life’s challenges. With children aged between four and ten, she says juggling the demands of parenting and study hasn’t always been easy – “there’s never a dull moment.”
Not having to leave Hawke’s Bay has helped her pursue her academic goals.
“It’s been great not having to uproot my children from schools and important for them to have a stable place to call home. Having EIT locally is a blessing and as for the teachers, I really have to give them credit for their support and willingness to share what they know.”
Tash is proud that her mother, Hine Flood, is now learning Te Rēo. Her father, Chris Flood, a policeman for some35 years, has also done classes. English-born, he has always embraced the family’s Māori lifestyle.
“I’m grateful for the upbringing I’ve had. I don’t know what I would do without my parents and their support.”
While Tash isn’t planning too far ahead, she has thought about teaching once she completes her studies.
“I would really love to have something to do with providing Māori resources for children at schools. If I could do that I’d be a happy person.”
Because of tertiary study, she believes we live a life of luxury, profiting from the treasures gifted by our ancestors.
“If you genuinely invest in these taonga, your life will undoubtedly be enriched,” she says, quoting a Māori proverb. “Ko tā te tangata i rui ai ko ia anō tāna i kokoti ai – as men sow, so shall they reap. If you are prepared to put in the hard work, the benefits are endless.”