The Dame Charmian O'Connor Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Celebrating 25 years of Tuākana in Science

Find out the unique journey each of our schools and departments have taken over the past 25 years to develop a Tuākana in Science programme for their students.

Tuākana in Science - a combination of parts

The Tuākana programme has not always been the centrally supported programme that we know and see today. Instead, it is the result of many stories and initiatives that have been woven together by passionate individuals who recognised the need to ensure our Māori and Pacific students felt a sense of ‘belonging’ and place here at the University.

Discussions around this, along with ways to better attract and retain Māori and Pacific students into the Sciences, started to gain ground in the Faculty in the early 1990’s. Led by Professor Michael Walker in the School of Biological Sciences, support initiatives were developed and the early stages of the Tuākana programme started to take shape.

The result was a number of school and departmentally run initiatives being established throughout the 1990’s, that offered support specific to the unique curriculum needs and learning styles of their academic programmes. These programmes, though independently run, were unified by the desire to foster a sense of community that engaged our Māori and Pacific students and helped them to realise their potential and ability to succeed.

25 years later, Tuākana has evolved into a university-wide initiative, that provides support to thousands of Māori and Pacific students each year. It is through the collective effort of many inspirational staff and students that we see the strong, cohesive programme that is in place today.

In the Faculty of Science, while all departments and schools come under the collective umbrella of the 'Tuākana in Science programme’, they still remain largely independent and in control of how their own programme is run. They are unified in that the key objective is the delivery of content in tutorials and revision sessions across the semester – but how they do that is dependent on the needs and demands of the students they deal with. Social occasions as an engagement strategy also form an important part of the programme, providing students with the opportunity to make connections early on in their programme of study – something that has proven to help motivate and retain our Māori and Pacific students.

The programme is also bulk funded by the Tertiary Education Commission Equity Funding (TECEF) which is managed centrally by the Equity office. Each year, our schools and departments must apply for funding to deliver their own programme that has been adapted to meet the needs of the students in their curriculum area. The programmes are generally led by one or two coordinators, usually with the oversight of a senior departmental staff member who has time allocated in their job description to support of the programme.

The tutors are usually senior students, mostly Māori and/or Pacific, who exemplar the type of approach needed to be successful at university. They are normally former recipients of the programme themselves, and are given the opportunity to play a leadership role and help younger students adapt to University.

So, as you can see, the programme we use today is the result of many contributors over the past 25 years. It is still developing, as we continue to develop ways of connecting with and delivering a positive education experience for new Māori and Pacific students coming into this faculty. From Mike Walker who introduced the moniker of Tuākana which has now largely been adopted by the other university programmes, to a myriad of current and former staff who had a role in the wider development of support programmes in the faculty such as John Craig, Mere Roberts, Fiona Cram, Margaret Goldstone, Mel Wall, Lyndsay Blue, Bill Barton, Sina Greenwood, Pat Riddle, Clark Thomborson, Shane Wright, Ross Ihaka, Max Jones, Erana Cooper, Jason Turuwhenua, Dick Bellamy, Alan Lee, Grant Guilford to name a few.

Departmental snapshots

Key people

Meet some of the key people who have been involved in the Tuākana programme over the past 25 years: 

  • Kisina Finau

    Spotlight on Kisina Finau, who graduated with a BSc in Computer Science in 2013

  • Daniel Hikuroa

    Dan graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology in 1996; a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in 1999; and a PhD in Geology in 2004

  • Pikihuia Pomare

    Pikihuia graduated with a BA in Psychology and Māori Studies, an BA(Hons) in Psychology, and with a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology in 2015.

  • Joseph Peni

    Joseph Peni graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Applied Mathematics in 2008 and has been a key contributor to the Tuākana in Science programme for over eight years.

  • Melanie Cheung

    Melanie is a graduate from the School of Biological Sciences, and has been a key contributor to the Tuakana programme.








  • Vera Clarkson

    Vera is a current student and Tuākana mentor in the Department of Statistics, and Department of Mathematics.

  • Richard Hopkins

    Richard Hopkins graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics and Computer Science in 2012, and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Statistics in 2013.

  • Sina Greenwood

    Sina Greenwood is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics

  • Michael Steedman

Michael Steedman graduated with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and is now the Kaiārahi for the Faculty of Science.