I love talking about things that are uncomfortable and challenging,” says Te Tuhiwhakaura Wallace-Ihakara, an intern at Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission.
A third year University of Auckland student, Te Tuhi is passionate about creating authentic content that connects with Māori, and she’s not scared of changing things up.
She started her internship at Te Ara Ahunga Ora in January 2023 and has since been exploring new ways to involve young people in the organisation’s work to improve New Zealanders’ financial wellbeing.
"I’ve loved working across the marketing and Māori development departments, looking for new ideas for how we can involve rangatahi and be more tikanga oriented. It’s been challenging in the best way,” she says.
Te Tuhi is currently working towards a conjoint degree in Journalism and Māori Studies. Her work as part of the Tuputoa internship programme has helped her to translate this learning into practice, developing strategies and content to get young New Zealanders thinking about money.
"I’ve done a lot of things that many university students don’t get to do until they finish studying, so it’s been a great experience. The environment has been really welcoming,” she says.
She hopes to go on to pursue a career in media and communications, where she can produce content that is embedded in te ao Māori. She’d also like a shot at an international journalism career, where again she sees te ao Māori as always being forefront.
“My family live on a marae, so tikanga and te ao Māori has always influenced me. Anything I do, I do with this front of mind. Knowing where I come from has kept me so grounded,” she says.
Te Tuhi feels lucky to have grown up immersed in Māori culture, attending Kōhanga Reo and kura kaupapa Māori, meaning university was her first experience in a mainstream western education system.
“I’ve never had to fight to be Māori or second guess myself. It’s helped me in so many ways. I’ve never had to learn te reo. I feel so strong in who I am and where I come from.”
Te Ara Ahunga Ora Kaihautu Erin Thompson, Te Tuhi’s manager during the internship, has been impressed by the intern’s work ethic and contribution to the organisation.
“Te Tuhi arrived with the strength of her tuakiri (identity), her whakapapa (genealogy) and her deep understanding of te ao Māori. We have truly valued working alongside Te Tuhi during her internship and the great contributions she has made. She is a determined, dedicated wahine Māori who, I have no doubt, will do great things in the future.”