When Justice Hetaraka applied for the position of head girl at Whangarei Girls' High School she said she wanted to normalise Maori culture at the school.
At the time she did not know how she would do it but eventually she came up with the idea of creating a non-religious based school karakia called Te Timatanga - not to be confused with a Christian prayer - which was launched at the school yesterday.
"I wanted to normalise Maori culture in school so it wasn't something that was an add on. I didn't know where I was going but this year it came to me," Miss Hetaraka said.
Te Timatanga which translates to "The Beginning" is a positive affirmation to start the day. Miss Hetaraka said it was a school-wide effort and it has been a work in progress since March.
The project was lead by the team of head girls, written by the senior Maori class and was turned into a waiata by the Year 11 music class.
It focuses on guiding those who need care and includes the school's motto "empowering tomorrow's women".
"I think it's up to everyone to take it on and be responsible for it. What I want to get across is Maori is not just for Maori it's for everyone," Miss Hetaraka said.
She said the karakia was launched this month to coincide with Matariki. She said the teachers had been learning Te Timatanga and many of the students were on board with the idea.
"It was scary to have change and something different but lots of people are excited. I also wanted to improve Maori achievement [at the school]. I know a lot of people who have dropped out and that can come from not feeling welcome, so this is a stepping stone," she said. At the launch yesterday the entire school recited the poem for the first time and then it was sang.
After this a collection of helium balloons were released which had positive affirmations attached to them.
Te Timatanga 'The Beginning'
Horahia te marino
Kia aio te ra
Manaakitia nga whanau
Me ratou e mauiui ana
E rawakore ana
Uhia mai o tomairangi atawhai
Ki runga i a matou
Hei ako pai I nga mahi mo tenei ra
Kia papapounamutia te huarahi
Ki mua I a tatou
Whakamama nga wahine I apopo
Tihei mauri ora
Shower serenity upon us
Guide our families and people in need
Cover us in love and care
So that it may reflect in our learning
Guide us through our daily endeavours
To empower tomorrow's women
Be healthy, be happy, be safe