Running for the presidency of the Waikato (University) Students' Union had never been part of Kyla Campbell Kamariera's plan, but those who know her believe she has all the required qualities, and the role has settled on to her shoulders very comfortably.

Campbell-Kamariera (Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Taranaki Tūturu) took up the role at the beginning of the year, as she began her Masters degree in Māori and indigenous studies.

The news of her success arrived at a significant time for Māori.

"I got the call when I was at Ihumātao, and I knew I would have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, being Māori, wahine and president," she said.


"Then I realised those aspects would actually be a special part of my role, given where I was at the time and the fight we were fighting. It reinforced the past experiences I had been through, which have always brought me back to Te Ao Māori."

Now she had a different battle to fight, leading the student body through what could prove to be an unprecedented time in tertiary education history.

"When the Prime Minister announced in March that the country would be moving into lockdown, I had no clue what that would mean for me and my mahi. But once I, and the organisation, got into the flow of things, we were still able to offer students the same support, but remotely," she said.

"Like everyone across the country, we're still finding our way through the new Covid-19 landscape but, as president, I couldn't be happier with what the organisation has achieved and will continue to achieve."

Young Māori were passionate about the issues of today, she added, and she had seen a resurgence of mātauranga Māori and graduate recognition in mainstream spaces.

When it came to leadership, she drew inspiration from other strong Northland women, the likes of Dame Whina Cooper, Dame Mira Szászy and Merimeri Penfold, but it was those who were closest to home who had really inspired and guided her.

"I'm from a rural village, so I was always around people older than me, like my aunties, uncles and kaumātua," she said.

And she wasn't finished yet.


"I don't like to think of things as too far gone or too out of reach, so I thought I may as well go for the Vice-Chancellor role one day. It's a huge feat, but I'll work hard to get there."