IN the second weekend in August, there was held in Ngati Poneke Hall a conference of Maori students from the Auckland University College and Victoria University College.
The Auckland students, about forty strong, arrived in Wellington by bus on the Friday evening and as soon as the meal was over the girls were taken off by their respective hosts while the boys prepared to doss down in the hall. That night they were welcomed at the dance and a very happy evening of dancing and items was spent.
The week-end was devoted entirely to the sort of activities the student committees of the two colleges wanted; it aimed at beginning a pattern of student visits. The chief enjoyment of the weekend was in the sense of fellowship attained; its main value in the long and detailed discussion of many of the practical difficulties students face; and its chief and permanent contribution was that each person realised that his efforts are part of a wider picture of Maori people earnestly preparing themselves for public life as good Maoris and good citizens.
In our programme we attempted to strike a balance between an organised programme and informal social activities. In the afternoons there were organised discussions under a student chairman. There was an organised tour of places of Maori interest around Wellington and a students' service conducted by the Rev. Bennett. While these activities had their value for many of us the personal friendships and mutual understanding was of greatest importance.
While many of the topies covered in discussions were of special student interest there are some I would like to mention which might be of wider interest. One of the more special aspects was covered when the Maori Trustee gave us a good deal of encouraging information on financial matters. The many items of expense students meet in their daily lives and in their studies are not always well covered by bursaries and it is good to see that since the week-end not only has there been an improvement in the provisions of bursaries but also many students have accepted Mr Ropiha's invitation to put their financial problems to him for special consideration. The activities of women's welfare leagues in this matter is another sign, for which we are grateful, that the needs of students are not only becoming more recognised, but are, in fact, being met by active programmes of assistance. No student need suffer hardship.
Facilities For Study
Another topic of some concern was the question of study facilities. This may at first sight not appear to be such a very important matter but when a student is studying over those last few weeks before he faces the test of final examinations, having a place set apart for study is very necessary indeed. There he can be assured of quietness and an atmosphere of work and help which may make all the difference between a satisfying success and an unnecessary failure. After discussion it was clear that the need was great and we hope that on the basis of opinion and suggestions which arose during the week-end it will not be long before students in both colleges will have a study of their own, a base for their academic activities.
Those who are thinking of a university career for their children can feel reassured that even though there have been difficulties in the past these difficulties are now being overcome. The direct efforts of the students themselves in making their needs known and in showing the way in which a better state of affairs can be reached, promise well for the future.
In a busy week-end the gathering found time to discuss courses and exchange ideas about them, and even to send a remit to the college authorities in Wellington expressing their ‘belief and desire, that in the interest of scholarship and good citizenship the teaching of anthropology and Maori Studies at Victoria University College be not long delayed’.
It was realised that such matters are not arranged casually or hurriedly, but here too, a matter which has rested on the minds of students was brought out and openly discussed and the results of that discussion directed into the hands of those upon whom responsibility for action rests.
Dances, items, and social chit-chat filled all our spare time and helped make the hui one to remember and if possible repeat. One highlight amongst the very full round of activities was the elegant and capable what korero of the Auckland students well worthy of any marae.
Thanks are due to those who organised the week-end—Peter Gordon, Pat Hohepa and Maurice Rikihana at the Auckland end and Toby Rikihana, Kem Tukukino, Horowai Ngarimu and Bill Taki in Wellington. And I must mention in particular the willing workers of Ngati Poneke whose tables were more than full and who, through their financial support made the hui possible.