Te Ao o te Māori

Oct 5, 2017

A window into the rich lifestyles of contemporary Māori
Photographs and words nā Phil Tumataroa

For more than 80 years the Te Waipounamu Māori Girls’ College helped young girls grow to become young women.

The college was the only boarding school for girls in Te Waipounamu so for hundreds of Ngāi Tahu families, and many others from the north and further afield, their daughters were sent there to be educated.

Recently a small group of former Te Wai girls came together at the old Ferry Road school site in Christchurch to reminisce and help celebrate a significant birthday for former college Matron Reihana Parata; aka Aunty Doe or just “Mum” for the old girls of Te Wai!

Opened in 1909 by the Anglican Māori Diocese in Ōhoka under the guidance of Rev Charles Fraer, the college never deviated from its focus of providing an education for Māori girls. In 1921 it moved from its rural roots to its Ferry Road site and in 1965 the on-site school was closed and the girls started attending nearby Avonside Girls’ High School for their formal education.

“We might have gone to Avonside to learn our writing and arithmetic, but at the college we learnt how to look after ourselves and each other, about our culture and language, how to be resourceful and creative, cook and clean, grow food,” says Leisa Aumua, who helped organise the reunion.