Professor Poia Rewi will be giving his last ever seminar to Te Tumu as Dean of our School. Poia has been an inspiring leader of Te Tumu and, as most of you know, we are very sad that he will soon be leaving the university for greener pastures elsewhere.
It would be wonderful if you are able to come along to the seminar; if not, then his talk will also be live-streamed on Te Tumu’s Facebook page.
Poia Rewi (Ngāti Manawa, Tūhoe, Te Arawa, Ngāti Whare and Tūwharetoa) hails from Murupara in the Bay of Plenty. He migrated south from Waikato University to Te Tumu, the University of Otago’s School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies in 2003 to help boost our Māori-language teaching programme. He is an acknowledged master of te reo Māori, always teaching the advanced-level language classes. A noted composer in his own right, he also taught Te Tumu’s advanced kapa haka classes. Poia completed his PhD in 2005, written completely in te reo Māori.
He has always been popular with students as a teacher and supervisor, as willing to feed their bellies with his soups as their minds with his knowledge. He became the Dean of Te Tumu and full professor in 2016.
Poia is also a serious and respected researcher, with publications on te reo Māori, language revitalisation, tikanga Māori, Māori oratory and Māori history. Indeed his thesis, published in 2010 as Whaikōrero: The World of Māori Oratory by Auckland University Press, went on to win the Best First Book Non-Fiction Award in the 2011 New Zealand Book Awards.
Poia has always been a great innovator and collaborator. He helped develop AKI, an app to help learn Māori vocabulary with other Otago academics. He is also part of the team that came up with ZePA (Zero Passive Active), a model to advance the public’s attitudes and engagement with te reo Māori, and to promote Māori-language revitalisation, that is now used by a number of government agencies. Recently, Poia has worked with academics at Victoria and Auckland as a Co-Principal Investigator of Te Pae Tawhiti: Te Reo Māori, funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, looking at the value of te reo Māori in terms of the economy, cultural identity and social cohesion. This led to The Value of the Māori language: Te Hua o te Reo Māori, published by Huia in 2014, that won the Te Reo Māori category of Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Awards in 2015. Poia is currently Deputy Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, a position he will reluctantly have to leave behind for his new role in Wellington.
The revitalisation and advancement of te reo Māori have always been Poia’s passions. He was appointed to the board of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) in 2012, and in 2014 was seconded from the university to be their acting Chief Executive. Poia’s new role, starting next month, is also in a similar field, as Tumu Whakarae (Chief Executive) of Te Mātāwai, a government agency created to assist hapū, iwi and communities in the important task of Māori-language revitalisation.
Our loss will be the community’s gain. Poia has been an amazing example for us in Te Tumu and the University of Otago, as a person who lives and breathes tikanga Māori, as an inspirational teacher, a leader in research, as well as a colleague and friend in the academy. We will surely miss him.