Good kai – the sourcing, preparing, sharing and eating of it – is the key kaupapa in Hera Te Kurapa's life.
The 38-year-old, of Ngāti Kurī and Te Arawa descent, last year gained a masters in Applied Indigenous Research degree through the Mangakōtukutuku campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWoA) in Kirikiriroa.
She's also among hundreds of TWoA tauira who will take to the He Puāwaitanga graduation stage in Hamilton this Thursday and Friday, April 22 and 23.
Her masters rangahau (research) focused on kai-haka food within kapa haka and her food knowledge is now being passed on nationwide through her new role at Plunket New Zealand.
"My goal and purpose for doing my masters was not only to rangahau my practice but to also show my children and whānau that anything is possible and nothing is impossible," says Hera.
As part of her study she created her own website, www.kai-haka.co.nz, which showcases her work.
Her new role as a whānau awhina at Plunket comes after 10 years working at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa herself. The Plunket mahi is part of a personal mission.
"My passion has always been to use my lived experience to upskill whānau and tamariki around nutrition, kai knowledge and basic cooking skills, working alongside expecting mama and supporting a team to be change agents within the wider community."
She's also keen to set up her own restaurant specialising in kai moana, using contemporary systems alongside traditional ingredients and methods.
Hera says she has found TWoA to be an institution that "allows me to be my authentic self".
"I felt supported by all kaimahi and other tauira."
Staff went "over and above" their usual roles during last year's Covid-19 crisis to support tauira to complete their studies.
"I truly believe that our kaiako are the gems of our programmes. My kaiako was available whenever required and was there to tautoko me every step of the way."
She says the TWoA kaupapa of whānau transformation through education is a statement she treasures.
"Studying with TWoA is like nothing else. I have made lifetime friends, listened to some amazing stories and we have collectively shared knowledge amongst ourselves."