What does it mean to you to be elected as the WSU President for a second year?
That’s a funny question because I have been elected president, but there was no one who ran against me last year.
Ohh I didn’t know that.
Election is a weird word. Obviously, I got the votes to still be in office and no one voted ‘no confidence’, but it’s what I wanted so I feel great about it. And I’m happy about it because I did run and I did get it and it’s a good opportunity to be consistent. And I’ve been with the WSU for, this will be my third year, so it’s a real confidence-builder as well that I can continue the work that I’ve sort-of done over the last few years.
Do you feel like this is a chance to get to do all the things you may have missed out on as President during Covid?
No, I was very vocal about the things that I wanted to achieve in my time as The President in 2020. And I had no idea that in the beginning of 2020 that I’d run again in 2021. I was vocal in the things that I wanted to achieve and we did that. And now this year is an opportunity to have new goals because, like I said, I achieved the things that I wanted to with the support of the board and the organisation. So yeah, I didn’t run a campaign on, ‘give me another chance because of Covid’. I was like, ‘give me another chance because I’ve got some new ideas’ and I’ve got some new business to get on with.
What lessons did the WSU learn from last year and are you proud of what the WSU achieved?
I’m definitely proud because Covid just shook obviously the world. And we weren’t exempt from that. And so I’m really proud of what we did as an organisation. Part of what we do is represent students and then put on activity and events. We didn’t put on as many activities and events that we usually would’ve. We usually represented the hell out of the students and so I’m really proud of that. What we did do last year is we basically went back to basics and that is what covid highlighted. The need that students were after was if they were hungry, feed them. If they needed advice on anything that you could possibly think of, then give them that advisor that support. And that’s definitely what we did, I’m really proud of that.
How important a role do you feel you play as a young Māori woman in a leadership role given the events of the last year?
I think at the time it wasn’t ‘Young Māori woman leading’. It was ‘We needed to do stuff’, we needed leaders. But in hindsight, or in reflection, that Māori woman leadership was consistent with the leadership across the board. I lead alongside Dr Sarah-Jane Taikiwai and my mates; Tyler Te Kiri, who was last years VP Māori, and Jasmine Samson who was the faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies Co-President. So like I said, in reflection, it was like ‘Woah’… There were these young Māori women. Leading the charge, leading the change. But it wasn’t a real significant thing at the time it was just, we had to do things- ‘Oh look it happens to be Māori women.’ And it’s reflective of Māori leadership and the environment of Māori leadership. Today it’s Māori women making a stand and making changes for things. Not even just for Māori people, for everyone. So I’m really proud of that as well. In reflection it wasn’t a big deal at the time, it was just things needed to be done and we did it.
Have you noticed a willingness for the University to address some of the feedback on systemic racism?
Yeah definitely. With the work of the task force as the task force report being put to council at the end of March, it’s an opportunity for the University to embrace and claim our History, the way that we do things, and the way that we’re going to do things moving forward. We’ve had a willingness of The University to work with the task force. The taskforce held consultation sessions with heaps of people over the last few months of 2020 and a lot of people from The University community engaged and participated in those forums, and that shows a willingness. And I think, it’s 2021. It’s not cool to be resistant to change because that is just reflective of the environment that we’re in. Things need to be changed and if you aren’t going to change then it’s really unpopular to. And people enjoy popularity so if you don’t want to do things for the goodness of others, for the people, if you’re going to do it for your own ego or popularity- we don’t want to do things out of popularity but if it has to happen that way then we’re gonna take the most of that opportunity.
What does the WSU want to achieve in 2021?
If I go off the annual plan, we learnt a lot of things from Covid. And that was the driving force for our annual plan. So like I said, going back to basics; activating the campus again because it was obviously a ghost town with social distancing and online learning. So we want to put on events and activities and put food in the mouths of students who are hungry and offer support and advice. So those are our goals for 20201. And also, Nexus putting on more social media content and just content online in general. So those are our goals and then we’ve got a brand new board of directions. We haven’t met many times this year but I know they’ve got a whole lot of ideas that they’re just rearing to achieve. So I’m letting them have an opportunity to achieve the things that they want to as well. I said I already achieved the things I wanted to in my year last year and I thought by sitting in this seat again, in 2021, I’d be able to help other people achieve their goals because I know the system, I know how the organisation works, I know what works and what doesn’t. And to have someone in the recovery of Covid not knowing how to be a president that can be really difficult. And so that was one of the driving forces for me standing to be re-elected again.
How would you describe the Students’ Union to first years?
We’re like a mum. I’ve gone on about how we put food in the mouths of students, in the mouths of people who are hungry. Or we give advice. We give money. We give loans. So, I’d say yeah we’re like a mum. Or maternal.
Are people members of the WSU and do they have to pay a fee?
So people are members of the WSU so long as you don’t opt-out in your enrolment application. And no, students don’t have to pay so everything they receive is free of charge.
What will you be doing to keep in touch with students this year?
Like I said before we want to activate the campus a lot more. So I’ll be on campus all the time. When I walk across The University to meetings then talk to me if you have something to talk about. Otherwise, we’ll be keeping in touch over social media. My emails are always open- especially last year getting all the emails about Covid and online learning and social distancing stuff. Just being a face that is seen is most important to me and that’s the way I’ll be keeping in touch with students.
What advice are you giving your new board members for 2021?
So what I’ve been saying to them, drilling into them really, is communication. Just communicate. And that’s really important to me, it makes things easier. And communication leads to responsibility as well. If you have a task if you are rostered on the BBQ and you can’t make it it’s fine. People think it’s easier not to turn up to something then just communicate and be honest. And that’s communication about anything. Because first and foremost we’re students. If you have studies and assignments or whatever keep in touch, let us know what’s going on. Cause then we can alleviate some of that mental stress you hold on to and that so many people hold on to because they just don’t communicate. So that’s a big thing for me.