First for Otago Polytechnic as academic completes Masters entirely in te reo Māori

Shaun Tahau has created history at Otago Polytechnic, successfully completing a Master of Professional Practice – entirely in te reo Māori.

Shaun Tahau news story

It’s been a significant year for Shaun -- in August, he was appointed to an exciting new role, Tumuaki Whakawhanake/Director Māori Capability at Otago Polytechnic.

Shaun, who completed his MPP in early December, will graduate in March 2022 with distinction.

He started the journey towards his MPP in 2018 when, as Kaiārahi for the Kaitohutohu Office at Otago Polytechnic, he began the development of the Rautaki Reo Māori (Otago Polytechnic’s Māori Language Strategy).

“This was an opportunity for me to develop my understanding in a strategic space, but to also share my passion and lifelong mātauranga (knowledge) pertaining to te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (the Māori language and customs),” Shaun reflects.

The development of the Rautaki Reo Māori took just over six months, and involved consulting with many rōpū (groups) from Kōmiti Kāwanataka, Kotahi Mano Kaika and Otago Polytechnic’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT), before being approved by the Kōmiti Kawanataka and ELT in December of 2018.

As he researched and developed the Rautaki Reo Māori, Shaun realised there were no examples of this mahi being done in the tertiary sector. Therefore, he saw this as an opportunity to enrol in the Master of Professional Practise (MPP), with a focus on Organisational Leadership and Change and using his experience in developing the Rautaki Reo Māori.

As he began the process of enrolling in the MPP and reflected on the significance of the Rautaki Reo Māori, Shaun decided that if he was going to focus on the strategy, it would only make sense to do it all in te reo Māori. At that point, no one else had completed their MPP in te reo Māori.

This posed many challenges for Shaun as he navigated being a learner and needing support, but his role developing policies and processes to support Māori learners helped overcome these barriers.

“The journey has been a great learning opportunity for me, understanding what Māori learners can face if they request to submit their assessments in te reo Māori,” Shaun says.

“Te Reo Māori is an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand, and has been since 1987. As an organisation, we should support staff and learners to continue the appropriate use of te reo Māori in all domains.”

Shaun describes his appointment in August as Tumuaki Whakawhanake/Director Māori Capability at Otago Polytechnic as “both an honour and a privilege”.

Dr Megan Gibbons, Chief Executive Otago Polytechnic: “Shaun brings a wealth of experience into the role, including knowledge about the organisation, that will be instrumental in working with Colleges and Service Areas to assist them to build capability. The more we know and can do, the better the outcomes for our tauira will be. I am thrilled to have Shaun in this role.”

Working within the Office of the Kaitohutohu (KTO), Shaun’s role includes overseeing Otago Polytechnic’s Māori Workforce Strategy and Action Plan and continuing to embed and integrate the Māori Strategic Framework across Colleges, Schools and Service Area. Shaun is also the lead contact for Te Pūkenga in relation to Te Pae Tawhiti, Te Tiriti o Waitangi Excellence Framework for Te Pūkenga, which focuses on Māori staff capability and development.  

Also, as Tumuaki Whakawhanake, Shaun will continue to lead the implementation of Otago Polytechnic’s Te Rautaki Reo Māori/Māori Language Strategy – a first for our sector – and also be the Polytechnic’s key contact for matters concerning Māori staff capability and development in relation to Te Pae Tawhiti, Te Tiriti o Waitangi Excellence Framework for Te Pūkenga.