New Year Honours: Sir Toby Curtis

By Matthew Martin

HUMBLED: Te Arawa kaumatua Dr Toby Curtis has received a knighthood for his services to Maori education. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER 271213sp2
HUMBLED: Te Arawa kaumatua Dr Toby Curtis has received a knighthood for his services to Maori education. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER 271213sp2

Noble Thomson (Toby) Curtis
Born at Rotoehu 1939
Of Ngati Rongomai and Ngati Pikiao descent
Bachelor of Arts, Diploma in Teaching, Master of the Arts and PhD
Former Fulbright Scholar
To be knighted for his services to Maori education

The remarkable career of Te Arawa kaumatua Noble Thomson (Toby) Curtis has been capped off with a knighthood for his services to Maori education.

Dr Curtis follows in the footsteps of other Te Arawa knights such as Sir Charles Bennett, Sir John Bennett, Sir Peter Tapsell and Sir Howard Morrison.

Dr Curtis said he had been inspired by a number of those men, and others, including his parents and whanau, Major Rewhati Vercoe, Bishop Manu Bennett, Matt Rata and Dame Whina Cooper.

He said the honour came very much as a surprise to him.

"My mind immediately went to the faces of all those people, particularly those no longer with us, that had an impact on my life.

"It was a simple kind of impact, you felt their heart talking, not just their minds, and you couldn't ignore it. They were wonderfully simple urgings that stayed with me all my life.

"Don't give up, no matter what challenges you face. There will be difficulties along the way but they must be overcome."

Born at Rotoehu in 1939, Dr Curtis is of Ngati Rongomai and Ngati Pikiao descent.

"I thought that when I retired it would be the closing of a chapter, if anything, it has opened up a few more books.

"But that has been exciting in a number of ways."

One of the keys to his success was taking the time to develop "useful, working relationships".

He said one of his career highlights was working with the former Broadcasting Corporation to put in place Maori radio and television networks.

"It was a plan to cater for the Maori world using the model of the pakeha world. We weren't being greedy, we only wanted one station for each iwi," he said.

Another was setting up the AUT Maori Expo, which is now held biennially and attracts up to 60,000 people and, in 1990, when he was made the first Maori director of the Auckland College of Education Primary Teacher Education department.

Dr Curtis is one of New Zealand's leading Maori educationalists and is widely respected for his innovative achievements in education.

His career in education has taken him from a primary school teacher to work with intellectually disabled children, to roles as principal of Hato Petera College and vice principal of Auckland Teacher's College in the 1980s.

In the 1990s he was Auckland College of Education Primary Teacher Education director, Faculty Dean of the Auckland Institute of Technology and was appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor at Auckland University of Technology in 2000.

In 2012 he was appointed chairman of the Iwi Education Authority for Nga Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa (Tribal Immersion Schools).

He has also been heavily involved in Maori broadcasting and in 1997 was appointed chairman of Te Mangai Paho, the Maori Broadcasting Agency.

He chaired a Maori broadcasting advisory committee in the late 1980s, which led to the establishment of Radio Aotearoa, iwi radio stations and Maori Television.

Dr Curtis is chairman of Te Arawa Lakes Trust, deputy chairman of Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes Strategy Group, deputy chairman of Te Waananga o Aotearoa Council, a member of the Police Commissioner's Forum, the Iwi Leaders Forum, the Regional Police Commander's Forum and chairman of Te Arawa Whanau Ora Region.

He will officially receive the title Sir at an investiture in mid-2014.

"It makes me feel very privileged, very grateful and very humbled - especially when I think of those who have gone before me."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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