Summer Internships: A kaupapa Māori approach to work experience

Driven by a desire to contribute meaningfully to Māori development, Sophia ‘Unga took up the challenge of being a summer intern for Te Puni Kōkiri.

Published: Monday, 11 March 2024 | Rāhina, 11 Poutūterangi, 2024

The annual Internship Programme ran from December 2023 to the end of February 2024 – giving 20 bright and intelligent rangatahi experience across Te Puni Kōkiri national and regional offices.

“I really wanted to gain some work experience but because I’m picky I didn’t want to work just for anyone,” Sophia said.

“I wanted to know the work I did was beneficial to someone, I wanted my work to contribute to Māori.”

Sophia was based in the Porirua office, where she worked predominantly with the rangatahi and marae teams.

A kaupapa Māori approach combined with her own rangatahi experiences meant Sophia was the perfect person to work in the rangatahi data space.

“With our ngako in mind, I used data and insights, annual reports and external data navigators to contribute to our rangatahi strategic planning.”

With a passion for history and psychology, 2024 is Sophia’s final year of study completing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology and History with a minor in Philosophy.

“Te Puni Kōkiri has added to my kete, my kono, my uku.

“I also loved the idea of wearing work clothes, morning quizzes with the tari, doing work that contributes to the development of Māori. Ultimately, just entering my ‘corporate-girlie’ era.”

Sophia said her time at Te Puni Kōkiri expanded her knowledge of different strategies and approaches, also the functions of government. This allowed her to consider future career paths and how she will apply her new learnings to future mahi.

To any future interns, Sophia’s advice was to remember “life’s not that deep.”

“Don’t stress if you get something wrong, you’re not the first and won’t be the last.

Talk with your fellow interns and maintain good bonds with them as they’ll be your most relatable group of people when thing don’t make sense.”

Caption: Sophia 'Unga (left) and Madison Price (right) at an Indigenous Wāhine hui in Rotorua.