Graduate Profile

Ngametua Terei

Ngametua Terei - Social Services

“When I walked across that stage at graduation to receive my Degree in Social Services, it was the first time I had graduated at doing anything – ever. I cried tears for the first time in my life.”

Ngametua has lived a hard life. “I left school at intermediate, was on the streets at 11 and then became a ward of the state. I was in and out of boys’ homes and foster care, and when I turned 17, I went to jail. I mostly lived life as a gang member and have had several stints in jail.”

“The last time I was in jail I did the Ko Wai Au (Who Am I) programme and it opened my eyes. It turned on a light bulb for me. I identified that I had been working with youth most of my life - but using my skills in a negative way. The programme also introduced me to education. Since then, it has taken 15 years to turn my life around and six years to complete my degree but my life has now changed forever.”

“After that programme, I started several short NorthTec courses but they had no meaning for me. Then a friend of mine was doing the Mental Health and Addictions course and suggested I jump on board. I loved that paper. I saw how my addictions were affecting me. And when I met the tutor at NorthTec, it turned out she was my social worker when I was 14! She hinted I might make a great social worker myself, so I decided to do it and began my learning journey.”

It was a long journey with some major set-backs including Ngametua struggling with the theory, pulling out of the course when he became homeless, and watching his oldest son go to jail with his second son heading that way too. “Little by little I’d get bits of my life together and I’d finish a paper here and a paper there, thanks to my tutor/ex social worker pushing me. By the time I did my third year, both my boys were working and I felt I was becoming a role model for them.”

“My motivation was that I wanted to change – both for my boys and for myself. I was ready to do the hard mahi.”

“Since getting my degree I have plenty of work and I keep getting more work offers. I now have a passion for working with the Youth Justice team plus I work with men in Tai Tokerau emergency housing. We help them be pro-active in gaining skills and being wiser in their choices. Education is the key – but you have it want it and you have to be ready to do the mahi to change – because it’s hard, and you end up turning away from your previous friends and whangai (adopted) family.”

“Working in social services is inspiring work and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I don’t win them all, but I’ve touched the hearts of men through education. My own education put everything in a different perspective. I realised I was feeding off negative energy, and it was a massive culture shock to turn and use my influence and skills in a positive way that inspired a similar change in others. I never knew I had a teacher locked up in myself.”

“Next I want to go on and do a master’s degree in indigenous cultures, but first I want a rest from study. I’ll stay with the emergency housing work for a while but long term my dream is to be a policy changer and help change our systems that are not working.”

“I’m still basking in that moment of walking across the stage at graduation. It was the proudest moment for me and for my family. I hope my story can open the way for others to face themselves and change their lives. If I can do it…..!”


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