Top accounting firm BDO has revealed its winners of the BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship for Māori accountants.
The intent behind the scholarship was to encourage more Māori to get into accounting professions as they are largely under-represented, making up only 2 per cent of accountants in New Zealand.
BDO hopes it can be a start to further increase the number of Māori in accounting, empowering them to become future leaders and shaping the direction of the Māori business sector.
The winners are Joyana Tarawa, Taimus Ritai and Erutini Paringatai-Walker who will each begin an internship with BDO this year. They will also receive $7500 of financial assistance for study-related costs, registration for Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui, and mentorship with BDO for their final year of study.
Sir Henare Ngata was the first Māori chartered accountant and paved the way for all Māori accountants that would follow.
After returning from serving in the 28th Māori Battalion during World War II, he moved away from home to gain his qualification. He then set up his own practice in Gisborne.
In later years this was sold, and over time, eventually became the BDO Gisborne practice.
Joyana Tarawa (Ngāpuhi), who will take up her internship at BDO Christchurch, said: "After I left school, we didn't have a lot of money and I didn't think university would be an option, so I took up a job as a tradie.
"I loved being outside and doing physical work, but after a few years my body was getting tired. Then Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister, and she brought in free fees for the first year of uni. I knew then that this was my opportunity."
"I started with a Bachelor of Commerce, taking all the available papers, and quickly decided that it was the accounting papers that made the most sense to me.
"I want to be a role model for our tamariki, especially Māori. Because of the way I was treated by teachers at school, I want kids who might be facing similar challenges to have someone to look up to that is just like them.
"Don't let anyone else determine your future based on your ethnicity or anything else."
Taimus Ritai (Te Āti Awa), who will take up his internship at BDO Taranaki, said: "The main reason I've pursued accounting is because I want to take my knowledge and experience back to my iwi.
"My aspiration is to be a Chartered Accountant working in a local accounting firm that assists and supports Māori organisations including iwi and hapū.
"I'm really happy that I'll be able to work with Māori businesses at BDO. I want to be able to help my people with financial advice. It will be great when we can get to the stage where Māori organisations can look to our own people rather than outsourcing work.
"We're definitely heading in the right direction with that – the Māori economy is growing especially in Taranaki and we will need people in business more and more."
Erutini Paringatai-Walker (Ngati Porou) who currently works as an accounting trainee at BDO Gisborne while studying said: "BDO is like a whānau – we have regular catch-ups to make sure I'm able to manage both work and study. It's been great to work with Māori businesses and I feel a sense of joy knowing I'm helping my whānau.
"I'm connected by lineage to a lot of my clients and I really feel a sense that I'm giving back to my community.
"The reason I became an accountant is so I can give back to my whānau, hapū and iwi. There's a shortage of people on the East Coast that know financial literacy, and there aren't many resources.
"It's still two and a half hours to Gisborne which is where the nearest chartered accountants are. Once I've completed tertiary studies and my CA and gained as much experience as I can, I hope to bring these sorts of resources back into the region. I would love to start a programme that reaches back into the smaller communities."
BDO offers a wide range of business and corporate advisory services to large corporate organisations, Government and public sector entities, private businesses, entrepreneurs, and individual clients across a wide range of industry sectors.
It's one of New Zealand's largest networks of independently-owned accounting practices, with offices in Kerikeri, Whangarei, Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Wanaka, Alexandra, Cromwell, Blenheim and Invercargill.