|When Peter Rameka signed up for pre-trade TIG welding training before completing his Trade Certificate at Waikato Polytechnic 20 years ago, he found it “hard and culturally uncomfortable”. He got through the tough times by listening to his father who said, “just put your head down and make a change later”.|
The boy from Tokoroa got through, became an engineer and now he is back with his head held high as the first Māori tutor to teach welding and fabrication in Mechanical Engineering at Wintec.
“What kept me going then, was whānau, good people around me, and the thought that maybe I could return and make a change one day.”
Among the good people, Rameka met along the way, were Pam and Les Roa and the wider whānau at Longveld Engineering where he worked for 11 years as a Light Fabrication Engineer.
He credits his mentor, Les Roa for allowing him to grow as a Māori leader.
“This meant I could bring 100 percent of myself, mentally, physically and now culturally to work.”
Rameka was part of a core group who shaped Longveld’s shift to te ao Māori (a Māori world view). Staff took part in kapa haka, Te Ataarangi reo Māori lessons and a range of initiatives that embraced and connected the diverse workforce at Longveld.
Twenty years after his first experience at Wintec, a random meeting at Te Rapa Pools in 2018 with Wintec academic Rose Marsters, (now Wintec Strategic Pacific Lead), sparked his interest in teaching at Wintec and led to his employment in 2019.
He knew there was no te ao Māori in the engineering curriculum but at the time, Wintec Trades and Engineering Team Manager, Nigel Jervis said, “Hey Peter do what you want to do and teach how you want to teach.”
“I made it a priority to engage with Wintec’s tauira support network, Te Kete Kōnae and Māori Pacific Trade Training (MPTT) before I felt comfortable and supported to share te ao Māori with our tauira [students],” Rameka says.
He is married to Lisa, who is Ngāti Pākehā and credits their relationship for learning the importance of empathy, understanding, patience and getting the mix right when balancing one culture with another.
“Normalising te ao Māori for me is best in a multi-cultural environment. We roll as one whānau, I keep it simple, deliver it in bite-size chunks so they can chew the fat and come back for more.”
He says taking a te ao Māori approach means opening mindsets to whakawhanaungatanga [making connections and relating to people], manaakitanga [treating others as equal or greater] and ako [teaching and learning from each other].
“I approach things differently, and I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be vulnerable. By being relatable and by sharing my journey, I gain trust.
“I place emphasis on whānau, and I teach around the kid sitting at the back of class. Different parts of my journey (the good and the bad) as a young Māori boy growing up in Tokoroa, Hato Paora College, the pre-trade course, and the apprenticeship I did are woven into my teachings where I see fit,” he explains.
He says this helps tauira align their own journey with his and he shares a scenario from his past he has used when teaching trades maths.
“A teacher once told me that I shouldn’t take School Certificate maths because I would fail, ‘Ring your mother and tell her’ he said. My mother asked me ‘Son, what do you want to do?’, ‘Sit it’, I reply. I sat the exam’.
“I ask my tauira ‘guess what happened whānau?’ ‘You passed Matua/Sir!’ “Hell no! I got 20 out of 100 but I stand before you teaching crazy trade formulae!’.
“I've had some tauira innocently reply, “So you were dumb too Matua?” We have a laugh, they put their head down with a smile, complete the activity and get 100 percent,” says Rameka.
“Te ao Māori is a balancing act, it’s side by side, pastoral style.
“I guess you’d say my style is next-level pastoral,” he says with a smile.
“I don’t clock off. It’s good to be part of a team where a mātauranga Māori influence is creating and changing the culture within our programme.”
It’s had a great effect on the retention of students. They are staying, because they are supported to stay.
When Wintec Open Day events roll around, Rameka sees it as the perfect opportunity to welcome new tauira.
“When tauira Māori show up, it’s good for them to see a brown face, and I talk to them kanohi ki te kanohi, face to face. ‘Kia ora, ko Peter Rameka toku ingoa, no Tokoroa ahau, I’m from Tokoroa’.
“I have had many tauira Māori ask, ‘Can Māori build that?’ or ‘Matua, do you teach engineering? But you’re Māori!’ I often have to collect my thoughts, saddened from what I've just heard, smile and reply, ‘Ko wai to ingoa, no hea koe? Anei taku purakau’ [What is your name, where are you from? Here is my story]. Again, I align by being relatable through te reo Māori and their journey starts from there,” he explains.
“This only fuels the need to take my trade to the people.”
“We roll as a whānau, we move as one. The whole class, Māori, Pākeha, international students. We learn from each other, and we support each other. It works.”
Rameka teaches a mix of Māori and PasifIka Trade Training (MPTT) tauira and non-MPTT tauira including apprentices.
“Everyone is treated the same. It’s kōtahitanga - unity. Now I am seeing something I would never have seen before, our tauira Māori are singing waiata and doing haka in front of their peers. No shyness, just pride. Sharing te ao Māori with the class,” says Rameka.
“If you can create an environment where they are comfortable to express themselves, then you are on the right path. We’ve seen a massive change in our programme and te ao Māori has helped influence that shift. I am excited about the future.”
This story is part of a series demonstrating how cultural change is making a major difference to learners, staff, employers and the wider community.
Wintec is working to improve equitable outcomes for tauira/learners and demonstrate Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnerships through a major change programme, Tōia Mai. Tōia Mai is grounded in te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori to create sustained and meaningful change across Wintec for tauira and kaimahi (staff).
Ensuring education responds to the needs of Māori, Pacific and all learners is a focus for Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology. As a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga, Wintec’s Tōia Mai framework aligns closely with this.