3rd-year student, Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice
The New Zealand justice system is failing Māori and is culturally insensitive, says Maia Te Hauora Kingi-Thomas. She is trying to find out why by completing a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice.
“I recommend studying criminology and criminal justice to anyone who wants to know more about the justice system. Studying criminology has given me the drive to promote social change for Māori, to empower those harmed by crime, to empower communities, tamariki and whānau, and to enhance reintegration programmes.”
Expecting to graduate at the end of the year, Maia already has a good idea how she sees her future after university.
“After graduating, I’d love to be involved in restorative justice. I’m currently doing my final-year workplace experience at PARS (People At Risk Solutions) Incorporated, and this experience is giving me a taste of what my future career could be like.”
Opportunities to grow
Maia admits that moving from Gisborne to Auckland to attend university was a little intimidating, but she has had tautoko from her hapu by receiving a Te Whanau-A-Taupara Scholarship in Leadership and Excellence. She has also been awarded the Kiwa AUT Undergraduate Scholarship to continue her studies.
“Auckland always made me feel lost because it’s such a huge city, and the people are so unfamiliar to me. But Auckland also made me realise how small my world was back in Gizzy. While living in Gizzy, most, if not all, my friends were Māori and I always lived in an environment rich in Māori culture. I was scared that if I came to Auckland, I would barely have any interaction with other Māori people.
“Even on orientation day at AUT, me and my sister didn’t interact with or see any other Māori student until the pōwhiri with the Māori student support team. Then, when I went to AUTaia – the orientation day for Māori students and their whānau – I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone to participate with the other students and have fun. There, I was introduced to Māori peer mentors and was shown what Māori student support has to offer.”
Maia has had plenty of opportunities to push herself out of her comfort zone.
“AUT has given me the opportunity to become more confident and independent, but has also taught me that there’s no shame in asking for help. As a Māori student, I know I can always rely on the Māori liaison officers. I’ve achieved a lot of personal growth and goals at AUT. I also just became a tuakana peer mentor this year to tautoko any Māori students.”
Advice for other students
Now in the final year of her studies, Maia has some great advice for other students.
“My biggest advice is to get used to asking for help. AUT offers so much support to students – you just need to ask. Anything that you’re struggling with, someone at AUT will be able to help.”
Her other piece of advice is simple: try new things.
“You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the things that make you happy or be close-minded to new experiences. Especially if you’re coming straight out of high school, you still need to explore and be adventurous. Join clubs, play sports and volunteer. Be a part of something that makes you happy.”