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Lena Matiaha

Business Administration Graduate and Bachelor of Social Work Student

A portrait of UCOL business graduate and Bachelor of Social Work student Lena Matiaha

Looking to help fulfil the need for more Māori social workers in Wairarapa.

Lena Matiaha - Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhī, Tuhoe, Rangitāne o Wairarapa, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa

Having first come to UCOL to study Business Administration, Lena Matiaha is now looking to help fulfil the need for more Māori social workers in Wairarapa. 

Lena first arrived at UCOL in 2015 to study Business Administration alongside her daughter. Together they completed Level 3 and 4 programmes. 

Part way through the year, Lena landed a full-time job as a Community Health Worker and Navigator at Whaiora Medical Centre. She was concerned that this would prevent her from finishing her studies, but her lecturers went above and beyond to help her succeed. 

“My lecturers were very encouraging when it came to my job. A classmate and I couldn’t make the day classes because of work, so the lecturers would meet with us in the evenings to give us our lessons. Without that support, I don’t think I would have completed my studies.”  

In 2016, Lena received an offer to join Rangitāne o Wairarapa as a Pou-tiaki Whānau Kaimahi (Family Wellbeing Support Worker). She jumped at the opportunity to work with the iwi and move into a social work position.

“I wanted to work with our people. Our role is to empower our families. We provide them with advocacy and information so they can confidently access services such as Work and Income and employment agencies. I get a lot of joy knowing that I’ve helped someone.”
As part of Lena’s employment, Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Health Workforce New Zealand have provided her with the opportunity to study part-time towards the Bachelor of Social Work through UCOL’s Wairarapa campus and Open Polytechnic. She also is given one paid day a week to study. 

“Without the financial support given, I wouldn’t be able to do the degree. It’s great knowing that they are so supportive of me achieving this qualification. They know how important it is to our people to have more qualified social workers.”

“It’s great to be back at UCOL. I think I connect well with UCOL because of that family feeling, that whānaungatanga we have with each other.”

A highlight of the first year of the programme for Lena was participating in a noho marae (marae stay-over).  

“I really enjoyed our noho because I grew up in tikanga on marae. It was something I could relate to and I could share my taonga. It was a privilege to share that experience with other students.” 

Once she graduates, Lena hopes to stay on with Rangitāne o Wairarapa and possibly branch out into counselling


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