It was a year of firsts for some of the degrees offered at Whitireia in 2009, with the first students graduating from the Bachelor of Applied Arts, and the introduction of the Bachelor of Nursing Māori
At the same time, it meant a farewell to locations that had served their occupants well as performing arts and stage and screen programmes moved from Porirua into the Wellington Performing Arts Centre.
In what would come to be an ongoing tradition, the year's major graduation was held at the then recently opened Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua. Nearly 300 students graduated, including the first students to complete the three year Bachelor of Applied Arts with specialisations in creative writing, music, performing arts and visual arts and design.
"This graduation really demonstrated the value of celebrating together in our city as a community the individual and collective success of our students," said chief executive Don Campbell.
National list MP Hekia Parata was the speaker for the ceremony and was joined by other guests, including Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban MP, Open Polytechnic chair Douglas Langford, chair of the Education Forum Russell Marshall , Grant Klinkum from the Tertiary Education Commission, the executive director of the Porirua Chamber Simon Calvert, chief executive of Wellington Free Ambulance Alan O’Beirne, Graeme Hansen of the Tawa Community Board, and the deputy principal of Tawa College Geoff O’Halloran.
In March, Prime Minster John Key opened a new Paramedic Learning Centre at the Porirua campus. After offering the Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedic) at Whitireia for five years, the programme had grown considerably in size and the need for a dedicated laboratory and learning space was realised with the new Learning Centre which was developed by refitting existing prefabricated buildings.
"The degree has an excellent reputation," said programme leader Mary Manderson. "The numbers of enrolments grow each year and we have reached the point where we need dedicated facilities."
The Paramedic Learning Centre would be the home for the paramedic programme until the opening of Wikitoria Katene in 2013 when all health programmes moved into its state of the art facilities.
On their regular international peregrination, Whitireia Performing Arts went to Spain for 2009, performing at various folk festivals in Segovia, Burgos and in Portugalete in the Basque country. During the trip, the students engaged in a range of different activities, from street parades, to workshops and midnight performances.
"We have been doing this trip for fifteen years now," said Tuaine Robati, Artistic Director for Performing Arts. "It is a great opportunity for all of us. The festivals are all about bringing the ‘world’ to the towns and the students take great pride in representing New Zealand internationally."
"Performing every day, sharing our stories and inspiring people through interaction is one of the best experiences," said second year Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) student Evan Fuimaono.
After 18 years of entertaining the Porirua community, Whitireia performing arts students are looking forward to working in a new studio in central Wellington. Bachelor of Applied Arts students and staff are moving to the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, which Whitireia bought last month. Acting programme manager Mary-Rose Royal says that even though the move will increase the school's presence in the city, they hope to retain their links with Porirua.
The Bachelor of Applied Arts (Performing Arts) is the only kind of its course and includes the study of Samoan, Cook Islands, Māori and contemporary New Zealand dance.
A new degree for Māori nurses is aimed at boosting a health workforce struggling to provide effective care for some of New Zealand’s sickest people. The three-year programme targets students with Māori ancestry (whakapapa), or some language skills (te reo), and is due to start in July at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua.
Head of Nursing Studies, Dr Margaret Southwick, has family links with Tuvalu. She has run the successful Pacific programme in nursing for the past five years, together with the mainstream nursing degree. She says adding the new degree seeks to tackle a long history of poor statistics for Maori in New Zealand.
“Our current workforce, for a variety of reasons, doesn’t seem to be able to address Maori people’s health needs,” she says. “We believe that developing a nursing workforce that is more closely identified with their own community can perhaps be a contribution to turning some of those health statistics around.”
A major difference of the course will be having a Maori perspective featuring ideas of whanau (family) and wairua (spirituality) as a starting point and then incorporating nursing science and knowledge. Graduates will be registered by the Nursing Council in the same way as other nurses but their journey to that point is different, says Dr Southwick. “The students will still need to meet the requirements of being a registered nurse.”