Otago graduates make history by defending at home

9:39 am on 19 August 2023

By Ani Ngawhika of Otago Daily Times

Māori PhD graduands Ngahuia Mita (left) and Terina Raureti

Māori PhD graduands Ngahuia Mita, left, and Terina Raureti will graduate from the University of Otago today. Photo: ODT / Peter McIntosh

Two Otago graduates have made history by completing their PhD oral defence assessments within their own Māori communities.

Terina Raureti, 30, and Ngahuia Mita, 30, will graduate in Dunedin today after completing their PhDs in te koronga (indigenous science).

In their third year, the pair both took their studies to Karitane, exploring aspects of indigenous science in the local community.

The experience encouraged the pair to proceed with their PhDs within their North Island communities.

Instead of the usual academic setting, they completed their PhD oral defences in their communities, a first for Otago students.

"For the both of us, we wouldn't have thought of any other place but our home communities to do our mahi," Mita said.

"Both of us moved down here to study away from our whānau and kāinga but always wanted to use the skills and knowledge we gained here to give back home."

She focused her PhD thesis on swimming from a Māori perspective within her community in Ōtaki.

With help from her Karitane and Ngāti Kapu whānau, she developed the model "kauora" which explores this perspective.

She hoped that her studies would help strengthen the relationship Māori have with water and decrease the likelihood of drownings.

Raureti presented her oral defence at her Te Pou-o-Tainui marae in Ngāti Raukawa before 100 members of the community.

Mita took her studies home to Gisborne where she focused her PhD thesis on Tai Rāwhiti waka.

The 22m waka gave Gisborne rangatahi (youth) a sense of belonging by connecting and engaging them with their culture.

Her study explored waka philosophies and the ways in which waka improve the overall health and identity of rangatahi.

Mita completed her presentation at the Tauawhi Men's Centre with help from her whānau.

She will continue study as a research fellow while working on a project focused on the health and wellbeing of her community.

"At the end of the day it's about the 'why' behind what you're doing, and for us that's completely connected to our whānau, our hapu, iwi and communities."

This story was first published by the Otago Daily Times.