Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is mourning the loss of our respected matriarch, beloved kuia and aunty to many, Marie Panapa.
Aunty Ma, 73, passed away yesterday at Waikato Hospital after earlier suffering a heart attack at an event held at Apakura campus.
Te Taiurungi Dr Jim Mather said while Aunty Ma’s health had been failing for some time, her passing has come as a shock to everyone at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
“There is profound sadness among the many kaimahi within Te Wānanga o Aotearoa who are deeply affected by her passing,” he said.
“We extend our aroha and sympathy to Aunty Ma’s whānau at this sad time, moe mai rā e te māreikura.”
Dr Mather said Te Wānanga o Aotearoa was forever indebted to Aunty Ma, who had been an integral part of the rise of the organisation from its humble origins in Te Awamutu in the mid-1980s.
“The legacy that Aunty Ma leaves behind - which is Te Wānanga o Aotearoa - is enormous. She shared a vision of better outcomes for the casualties of the mainstream education system. This philosophy was later extended to make education more accessible to all within our communities.
It rightfully brought Aunty Ma a great sense of pride that the result of this vision was Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, which evolved to become the second largest tertiary organisation in New Zealand.”
Aunty Ma worked alongside Rongo Wetere, Iwi Kohuru (Boy) Mangu and her late husband Rewi Panapa, to see their vision of a fledgling Ō-Tāwhao Marae project - created primarily for secondary school dropouts - come to fruition.
With little financial support, Aunty Ma and her colleagues found innovative solutions to re-engage people with education through teaching whakairo and raranga at O-Tāwhao, reconnecting many with their taha Māori while setting the foundations for further higher learning opportunities at the then Waipā Kōkiri Arts Centre.
She retired from her role as cultural adviser with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa late last year but was still involved through her role on Te Taumata Kaumātua, the kaumātua committee.
Aunty Ma is lying in state at Ō-Tāwhao until Monday. The funeral service will commence at 11am, Monday 8 May.