With more than half of its student population identifying as Maori, Waiariki Institute of Technology aims to make biculturalism a living part of day-to-day life.
The institute took home the tertiary award at the Maori Language Awards on November 16 and held a morning tea on Wednesday to celebrate the occasion.
Waiariki and Te Arawa kaumatua Ken Kennedy said he was not surprised about the win as the institute had been focusing on the student population of Rotorua and the Waiariki region for a long time.
"For a long time now, the Maori student population at Waiariki has been about 50 per cent and now statistics show that number is increasing all the time. For a long time, the percentage of Maori staff has been at about 30 per cent.''
Dr Kennedy said Waiariki was fully supportive of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and the recognition of Te Arawa, Mataatua and Tainui _ the three main waka of the Waiariki region. He paid tribute to the leadership of those who had worked tirelessly for the institute over the years for the benefit of all the students.
"Many of those great leaders have passed on, but some are still with us today. They are still very much supportive of their vision that Waiariki is a leading institute of technology and uniquely bicultural.''
He thanked the staff who had entered Waiariki into the awards on their own accord.
Waiariki learning and development adviser Deb Roberts said Waiariki had a vision to be uniquely bicultural.
"We want that to be a living thing, not just written in documents. It's bringing it to life so that staff know what it looks like day-to-day in their jobs.''
Ms Roberts said with the highest density of Maori people in New Zealand, it was important biculturalism was a living part of Waiariki.
She said Waiariki encouraged staff to build an understanding of te reo, tikanga Maori, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and its place in New Zealand history, demographic drivers and cultural diversity in teaching.
"We encourage our staff to build their own capability in things Maori so we are better able to deliver a service to our community, having the confidence to share things Maori with our international and domestic students,'' he said.
"Our staff has been amazing and really embraced it, we've got 60 staff who have been involved.''
Waiariki deputy chief executive Keith Ikin said the award was a recognition of a whole lot of effort put in throughout the institution.
"We had a staff survey four years ago, the issue staff felt was most important was our commitment to being a bicultural institution. This is an acknowledgement that staff have acted on that and followed through with finding
out a bit more about how to work with Maori learners and have developed a better understanding of Maori language.''
He said the Maori population at the institute had shifted from 35 per cent three years ago to the current level of 58 per cent.
"It's one thing to get more Maori learners here, but we have got to support them to be successful _ that's what this is about.''