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Principals connected by shared vision

Taranaki principal Damon Ritai says being mentored by an NZEI Fellow Tiri Bailey has inspired young Maori principals in the New Plymouth area.

Damon Ritai – Frankley School, Graham Sands – Waitara East School, and Scott Walden – Manukorihi Intermediate have all had Resource Teacher of Maori at Waitara East School Tiri Bailey as a mentor.

Ngatai Walker principal of Puketapu School (second from right) is also part of the group of four principals who stay in close contact and support each other.

Tiri also became a fellow of NZEI Te Riu Roa at last year’s annual conference and was recognised among other Maori educators at Te Kahui whetu hui in Waitara in July.

Damon was a teacher aide – kaiawhina i te reo Maori at Manukorihi Intermediate with Tiri as the teacher, and it was her that inspired him to go to Teachers’ College. He then returned as the bilingual teacher at the same school.

The four principals stay in close contact.

“Our schools are part of the Maori Achievement Collaborative and we get together once a term and share the success around Maori achievement in our schools.

“We also keep in close contact ….. and make sure we are all okay.”

Graham, Scott, Damon and Tiri have links to Te Atiawa and Taranaki and Ngatai is linked to  Ngati Porou (Te Whanau o Ruataupare) he moved to Taranaki with his wife and family.

And in passing the mantle of teaching and learning – Damon has been mentoring Scott and Graham.

He said the expectations on Maori principals is high and there is a duality in the role.

“You are walking in two worlds. It is a huge part of who you are. We are the leaders of our schools and often of our whanau and hapu/iwi.  “We have to consider balance while also giving time to our families.  ”A lot of this comes back to Maori values of manaakitanga, rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga and aroha. We are fortunate that we have had each other to be able to lean on.

“Tiri is very proud of each of us.”

He says that all the principals feel strongly about the importance of teaching the history of the Taranaki area to children.

Parihaka, for example, is part of this, as he has strong links to the Parihaka which is part of his whakapapa. Children from the school have visited Parihaka and they are developing a resource about Parihaka as part of the interest in a localised curriculum.

Damon also attended a NATSIPA (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Principals) conference in Brisbane last year.

Its focus was to see how to create an authentic connection between curriculum, community and culture. He said there was much interest from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island delegates on how Maori had worked to do this in Aotearoa.  He said the opening ceremony set the tone for the conference.

“Young people [from an indigenous school in Brisbane] led this and were speaking their language and playing the didgeridoo. They knew who they were and where they came from. This was part of their learning.”

He said though Australia is vast, there is great work being done in pockets of the continent to revive their cultures and a connection with education with the support of from state and federal government.

“With 40,000 years of history we are starting to see a revival in the indigenous culture.”

He said aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders were reviving their language, their ceremony and their indigenous experiences – such as the walkabout – the rite of passage for young men where they live in the wilderness for up to six months.

Damon also said there was much work to be done among the lost generations with reconciliation work was being done in schools as well as teaching traditional aboriginal history.

One of the speakers at the conference – Dr Anita Heiss – aims to empower indigenous youth to tell their stories.  She was using literacy as a vehicle to express her culture and sharing this with a global audience.

“It made me think about how we inspire our young Maori writers to tell their stories and how we could get a series of young Maori writers to promote this to our communities.”


Principals’ mihi

Scott Walden

Hoea hoea te waka Tokomaru

Matatū ai te maunga Taranaki

Tārere ana te waiora o Whaitara

Kimokimo ana a Kairau

Nei rā te uri te Te Ātiawa

Te mokopuna o Pukerangiora


I was born and spent the majority of my upbringing in Taranaki.  I am from a dairy farming background, and my  father’s family have strong links to both the Taranaki (Kahui Road – Rahotu) and Te Ātiawa iwi (Waitara Road – Waitara).  My mother’s family (NZ European – Polish) were also dairy farmers from Warea on the coast of Taranaki.

I have been teaching in the primary and intermediate education sector for 16 years, with the last four and a half years as the principal of Manukorihi Intermediate School.

“As a Māori and an educator, I recognise my responsibility for raising the standard of excellence in achievement and improving learning for our young Māori students.  I believe this has been reflected in my practice as both a teacher and leader in education.”


Graham Sands

Ko Taranaki te maunga

Ko Kurahaupo te waka

Ko Hangaataahua, ko Warea ngā awa

Ko Pūniho, ko Parihaka ngā pā

Ko Taranaki te iwi

Ko Ngāti Moeahu, Ko Ngā Māhanga-ā-Tāiri ngā hapū


Ko Aotea, ko Tokomaru ngā waka

Ko Oeo, ko Mangatī ngā awa

Ko Oeo, ko Muru-raupatu ngā marae

Ko Ngā Ruahine, ko Te Atiawa ngā iwi

Ko Ngāti Tītahi, ko Ngāti Tamaahuroa, ko Puketapu ngā hapū


I was born in Napier and my mother brought us back to Taranaki when I was 10 years old. We spent some time at Okato and Warea. I grew up in Marfell and attended Marfell School, Devon Intermediate and then New Plymouth Boys High School. From there I went to Palmerston North Teachers’ College. I taught at Marco school, Marfell School, Devon Intermediate and Waitara East School (15 years with principal for 3.5 years). This year, I am moving to Midhirst School to take up the principal position there.

The majority of my teaching has been in schools with a high percentage of Māori tamariki. This has allowed me to connect with our culture and pass it on to our tamariki. There has been plenty of support from Tiri Bailey who is extremely passionate about Tikanga Māori. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with my fellow colleagues.


Ngatai Walker


Nei te whatinga toka o Hikurangi

e ngahoro mai nei ki te wai ariki, ki te wai ora o Waiapu

Te awa e pōteretere ai te waka o Horouta

Ki te Tairāwhiti e whakataha ake nei i te marae o Ruataupare

Ko Ngati Porou te iwi owha nei, e mihi nei


Education plays a big part in our whanau. My mother (Irene Walker) and father (Reremoana Walker) are teachers and I have grown up seeing them in this awesome and relentless profession. The way that mum and dad put their students first above themselves is something that I now can really appreciate as a new tumuaki at Puketapu School in New Plymouth. I was born and bred in Masterton and went to school at Totara Drive, Hiona Intermediate and Makoura College. In my last year of schooling I boarded at Palmerston North Boys High School.

After training to be a teacher in Wellington, I started my teaching career at Masterton Intermediate School (MIS) and then taught in the Wairarapa, the United Kingdom and Europe and then back to Inglewood Primary School as the deputy principal.

One of my passions is around Māori akonga in English Medium Schools. We have approximately 90% of our tamariki in English Medium Schools and I want them to be able to achieve success as Māori.

By being connected to this group of Māori principals in Taranaki I feel hugely supported as a tumuaki hou to be courageous and to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi for our akonga.