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Successful end to study - Ara Graduation 2021

Two separate graduating cohorts and two graduation ceremonies resulted in 1,213 Ara students crossing the stage at the Christchurch Arena on Friday, producing Ara’s biggest graduation celebration to date.

For many of the graduates, their ceremonies were a long time coming, following years of study, work experience and apprenticeships – and then the disruptive impact of COVID-19 which led to the delay of the 2020 ceremonies.

The ceremony was opened with a stirring haka and karanga from Ara staff, which set the scene for the significance of the day.

Ara Chief Executive Tony Gray, spoke movingly of the trials of the students who had persevered through their educational journey.
“You arrive at this time and place, probably a little weary, possibly a little bruised, but ultimately, I’d suggest more resilient and with an even greater sense of achievement based on these most unusual of present-day life experiences.”

“But wherever you go, your qualification and learning experience, we hope, will help you arrive at a rewarding destination,” Gray said.

Cookery graduate and inspirational student speaker Johnny Murchison was one of the many 2020 students who was elated to be finally receiving his qualification on Friday.

Murchison, was diagnosed with development dyspraxia when young - a condition that affects the development of gross and fine motor skills - and said his “confidence took another hit” when at age 15 he received another diagnosis of spinal scoliosis.

As student representative of his cohort Murchison shared a little of his story with the audience.

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“I know each of us will have our story about why we came to Ara and what the experience has given us. For me, it was the opportunity to train professionally in the one thing I am really good at; and to do so in a place where being different is quite okay.”

Murchison said that Ara tutors “make a real difference in the lives of students”, and that he was proud of how much he had developed his baking skills since starting at Ara. Murchison now works as a junior baker at Percival Street Bakery, in Rangiora.  

Jade Pamata-Maanaima, student speaker for the morning ceremony, acknowledged how her personal growth aligned with the progression of her educational journey.


It was when she reached a crossroads in her life that Pamata-Maanaima said she “stumbled into her degree” for Construction Management – Quantity Surveying.

“I was sick and tired of living week to week, jumping round different jobs and not having a lot to show for myself.  What does one do when she wants to change the narrative of her life but has no idea what she wants?,” she said.

After some soul searching Pamata- Maanaima realised she wanted to be the role-model her four children needed to see in the world.

“I saw that I had two options. I continue working in jobs that don’t motivate me, while encouraging my children to somehow want better for themselves or I could simply be the change I want for them. And so, through this process, the pathway to higher education presented itself to me.”

Now, due to Pamata-Maanaima’s courageous decision to return to education, she’s achieved an impressive milestone in becoming the first in her family to graduate with a tertiary degree. 

“The cap we wear, the honor we have gained, the qualification we have received. It is not our glory to bathe in alone, it is the glory of our parents’ sacrifice, our spouses sacrifice, our children’s sacrifice, our ancestors sacrifice. To you, we are grateful,” said Pamata-Maanaima.

As the graduates left the arena, they turned to face a crowd of proud whānau all cheering for the graduates they supported through their educational journey. Once all formal celebrations were finished the graduates dispersed to take photos, and celebrate with family, friends and classmates.