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Achiever to Continue his Learning Journey

May 8, 2017

Having recently graduated with his master’s degree, Tawehi Munro is already considering further study

Many threads came together when Tawehi Munro graduated recently with a Master of Health Science from EIT.

However, gaining the degree with a distinction pass hasn’t stilled the 55-year-old’s academic ambitions.   

Drawing on his Māori roots and a career that’s included an 11-year stint in the public health sector and now focuses on Māori educational achievement in Hawke’s Bay, Tawehi is already considering a study topic for a PhD.

As he outlines his life journey, a picture emerges of a man who has pursued a path that continues to take him to higher ground.

Born in Wairoa, he experienced devastating loss in his early years, with the deaths of a brother, two sisters, and then his mother as he entered his teens. 

His father, of Ngāti Kahungunu as well as Scottish and Irish descent, was a primary school teacher and principal and his career took him to schools in the Waikato and Taranaki, bringing the family into closer contact with Tawehi’s mother’s iwi and hapu. 

“I’m a blend,” Tawehi laughs,” although I affiliate strongly to being Māori through both parents.”

Māori was among his subjects at Stratford High School and, enlisting to train as an ordinary radio operator in the Royal New Zealand Navy, he subsequently took a professional development opportunity offered to service personnel to hone his reo and tikanga with a year’s immersion study through Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

His 22 years in the navy, he says, allowed him to develop as a person, learning strong principles and values – courage, camaraderie and commitment to the task at hand.

“We were encouraged to think of it as the best small navy in the world.”

After retiring from the navy in 2003, Tawehi worked at Te Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and other tertiary educators, gaining “three or four” diplomas in public sector management and Māori.

With his next employer, the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, encouraging him to pursue postgraduate studies to grow his skills in his public health programme coordinator role, he decided “to jump onto the master’s pathway”.

But when universities turned down his applications for their postgraduate programmes, he turned to EIT, where he achieved an A average in studying for his Postgraduate Certificate in Health Science.    

“My perception had been that universities were better educators and that institutes of technology and polytechnics didn’t have the same calibre of academic staff.

“That’s been upended by my experience at EIT, particularly with my master’s programme coordinator Dr Patrick Landers and Dr Elaine Papps, who was my supervisor.  Both were outstanding.

“I am loyal to EIT,” he firmly declares.

Tawehi’s Master’s thesis is titled Pae Ora, Policy and Māori Leadership.

His links to the institute continue with his wife Putiputi, who completed her Bachelor of Arts (Māori) at EIT and is now studying for her honours degree. 

Tawehi also rates the district health board’s Tῡruki programme.  The workforce development strategy developed to meet the needs of Māori in Hawke’s Bay funded his studies at EIT.

“I can’t say enough about it, the leadership and support that comes with that.”

Working now as strategic advisor Māori for the Ministry of Education in Hawke’s Bay, Tawehi is keen to draw together his interest in Māori public health, education and hapῡ development in pursuing doctorate studies.