Many from Manukorihi Pā and Waitara will know Teremoana Porter-Rawiri and her whānau. Whether it is supporting kaupapa at Owae Marae or helping at community events, Tere is proud of her whakapapa and the place she calls home.
“It’s been a privilege to grow up so close to my tūrangawaewae, Owae Marae and to support kaupapa and our people,” says Tere.
However, for the last four years, Tere has been in tertiary study and was the deserving recipient of the 2023 Te Kotahitang o Te Atiawa Postgraduate Education Grant of $5000. She is in the first year of her Master of Science, majoring in ecology and biodiversity, at Victoria University of Wellington. Prior to this, Tere completed her Bachelor of Arts and Science majoring in genetics and Indigenous development/He Kura Matanui from the University of Otago.
At every opportunity Tere returns to Waitara.
“It fills my cup when I’m home,” says Tere. “It’s the connection with this place that makes me whole.”
While studying for her undergraduate degree, she was lucky enough to study alongside her mother Tiri Porter who completed her Bachelor of Theology in 2022. Both graduated together, which was a special moment for their whole family. Tere’s decision to continue into a master’s programme has enabled her to focus on her passion of te taiao.
“Through my undergraduate experiences I found my research interests lie in exploring the interconnection between mātauranga Māori and science, specifically in relation to our environment.”
Her master’s thesis focuses on describing the differences in fungal communities in unrestored farmland, restored wetlands, and conserved wetland forests in the Wairarapa rohe, where historic wetlands remain. Mātauranga Māori about fungi will be explored to explain or contextualise these differences and to gain a holistic understanding of the relationship between tangata whenua and fungi, soil, and the environment. Ultimately, she hopes to contribute to improved restoration outcomes. After her study, Tere is looking to gain experience working for organisations like Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) or Crown Research Institutes. From there she hopes to bring these skills and knowledge back to her iwi.
“I believe that actively maintaining a relationship with our taiao is crucial for advancing Te Atiawa’s growth, wellbeing and prosperity as our connection to the whenua through whakapapa is integral to our identity and wellbeing.”