MIT appoints new Kaumatua

Vincent Hapi (Tainui) has been appointed Manukau Institute of Technology’s new Kaumatua.

MIT communications spoke to Vincent about his recent appointment, how he transitioned from a qualified carpenter to a qualified secondary school teacher, and the importance of his role at MIT.

Could you please tell me your name, your job title and your iwi?

Tena koutou katoa, my name is Vincent Hapi, I am the Kaumatua for Manukau Institute of Technology as well as a lecturer here in Te Reo, and I am from Waikato Tainui.

How long have you worked for MIT?

I’ve been here for two months! Prior to that, I was head of the Māori Department at Wesley College.

I was very humbled to have a pōwhiri at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae because I had all my Wesley College students and staff come along to support me.

I thoroughly enjoyed working there, I would organise the kapa haka for ASB Polyfest. I would guide the students for the Ngā Manu Kōrero Speech Competitions.

We had a haka competition which I was responsible for. I was also the Kaitakawaenga Representative for Māori Teachers for Tāmaki Makaurau the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association. I’m passionate about raising the successes of our Māori students. My korowai is that of raising Māori but also our Pasifika whānau as well.

Where did you grow up in Aotearoa?

I grew up on a marae called Maurea Marae. On a rural marae, you have all the kuia looking after you and guiding you and teaching you, Te Reo was my first language. It was a beautiful old place, with old black pots with fires – no modern ovens around.

We were brought up under the values of Kīngiitanga and supporting the Māori Queen, it was a beautiful upbringing.

It was really special growing up on the marae, when you grow up speaking Te Reo and then you experience moving to the city, returning to your family cluster within Tainui is really important to keeping our customs alive.

What were you interested in doing after high school?

When I left school, my options were either join the army or become a carpenter, so when I left school, I ended up doing a four-year carpentry apprenticeship. For the first two years of the apprenticeship, we weren’t allowed to use electric tools, we had to do everything by hand. I got my qualification and went off to build houses.

But I’ve always had a passion for teaching and I wanted to become a teacher. I had a teacher in secondary school who became my mentor, which is why I’ve always wanted to be teacher, so I can do the same for others.

So, after building houses for some time, I decided to get the qualifications to teach Te Reo. I received a TeachNZ Career Changer Scholarship to go from a role as a qualified carpenter to a qualified teacher in a secondary school. I went to Teacher Training College through University of Auckland at their Grafton campus.

I’m the classic example of if you have a dream, go for it - finish what you start because there’s always a pathway to pursue.

What do you enjoy about working at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae?

One of the key aspirations of working here has been upholding the tīkanga customs and protocols, but also about upholding manaakitanga, pīnakitanga and kotahitanga – it’s more than just a one stop shop.

What have been some positives you’ve experienced working here so far?

So far within the two months of working here, I’ve already had some great experiences. I welcomed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern onto TechPark, we bestowed upon her a prestigious welcome.

What does the kaumatua role for MIT mean for you?

I believe that the kaumatua is a wraparound support service that I liken to a beautiful Māori whakatauākī; “kotahi te kohao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro ma, te miro pango, te miro whero. Through the eye of the needle pass the white thread, the black thread, and the red thread.”

This proverb means holding fast to the values and principles of hope, trust, faith, compassion and love. As a kaumatua, you need to understand all of the above and you need to come in with an open mind.

Everyone is on this waka, working together.

Do you feel like your time growing up on the marae has set you up well to work within a cultural advisory role?

Absolutely, I owe a lot to our kaumatua and our kuia who taught us to be humble in regards to the tīkanga that needs to be upheld, especially pertaining to Kīngiitanga. I have had a lot of mentors from back home, especially my tupuna who have handed down this taonga of knowledge.