Social Work students shine at Ara’s Maori and Pasifika awards

News News & events

09 Dec 2019

Last week was a cause for celebrating Māori and Pasifika student success at Ara with the 2019 Eke Panuku awards night.

Students were nominated by their peers and Ara staff for their academic progression and excellence and commitment to their communities.

There were 25 awards given:

  • Foundation Awards x 10
  • Diploma and Degree Awards (for each department) x 13
  • Supreme Awards (Māori and Pasifika) x 2

Supreme Winners: Riki Paea and Sea Muaimalae

PISA President wins Pasifika Supreme Award

For newly graduated social work student Sea Muaimalae, community and culture drive his passion for his work. His commitment to these two aspects of his life, as well as his studies and leadership qualities earned him the Pasifika Supreme Award for 2019.

“I’m a first-generation New Zealander. My mum and dad migrated from the islands to here and growing up I’ve always witnessed them serving the community.”

Muaimalae is a self-described “born and bred” Cantabrian, growing up in the east of Christchurch in Aranui, within a close Pacific Island community and attending his local church.

“My dad was a pastor and my mum is a preschool teacher and they were always willing to step out of their roles and assist our Pacific Island community. From that I guess my passion to serve people started to grow. I’ve always wanted to help people, so I thought about counselling, social work and teaching.”

“When I got the letter from Ara to say I was accepted into the social work degree I was really excited and jumping with joy!”

“I served alongside the executive team for student group PISA (Pacific Island Students of Ara), from when it was first established, I served as Events Coordinator for three years and then this year I was the President.”

Muaimalae excelled in his studies, securing a job before his four-year degree even wrapped up.

“I got a job from placement at Etu Pasifika. This was my first time being able to offer support for my Pacific Island community and it’s an honour to be able to do so. It’s also been really good because my Samoan language is limited, and I feel like over time while working here I’ve become more confident in speaking my native tongue which has been really good both personally and professionally.”

Māori Supreme Award recognises Riki’s community work

Whether a classmate needs a hand or there’s an opportunity to help someone in the community, Riki Paea is always keen to volunteer his time.

It was the quality of his academic progression and his commitment to bringing tikanga Māori into his social work practice which earned Riki the Monte Ohia Supreme Award for Māori students.

“It was really humbling to be able to go up there and be acknowledged amongst so many other nominees who are active in our communities.”

Paea, who is Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi, has just completed his Bachelor of Social Work at Ara. Throughout his degree he’s had a series of successful work placements, including most recently working with Christchurch Men’s Prison on reintegration programmes and with Canterbury Men’s Centre who offer counselling services.

“I started off in my first year working with youth on a voluntary basis working alongside the Canterbury Youth Development and the Axis Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu club, who volunteered their time, knowledge and training facilities to our rangatahi. These were kids between the ages of 10-17 who were dealing with various challenges. I based my work around Aikido, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu and health and well-being.

Paea’s background lends itself well to social work. In his varied working career, he has spent twenty years as a consultant in the Māori Land Court, which included working on the Ngāi Tahu treaty claim. He has also worked as a primary school teacher aide supporting children who are struggling in school.

“I thought ‘well I’ve enjoyed that work’ and then everything just happened to flow naturally with Ara. It just felt like it was meant to be.”

Next week Paea will take the next step in his journey, beginning work as a full-time social worker for Oranga Tamariki.

“I’m hoping to work with whanau to see how can I best support them and to help bring families back together where at all possible.”

Award Winners:

Māori and Pasifika Supreme Awards

Pasifika Supreme Award Winner: Sea Muaimalae


  • Lynley Bowler
  • Estelle Kei
  • Jade Pamata-Ma’anaima

Monte Ohia Supreme Award Winner: Riki Paea


  • Shanan Piripi
  • Isobel Prasad
  • Hamiora Whanau

Departmental Award Recipients

For Recognition of Academic Achievement and Community Commitment


  • Keiarna White, Hospitality and Service Industries
  • Jeremy Kerslake, Trades
  • Estelle Kei, Creative Industries
  • Jade Pamata-Ma’anaima, Engineering and Architectural Studies
  • Sea Muaimalae and Lynley Bowler, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health


  • Khrissy Paynter, Hospitality and Service Industries
  • Ainslie Baird, Trades
  • Isobel Prasad, Creative Industries
  • Bradley MacPherson, Engineering and Architectural Studies
  • Shanan Piripi, Humanities
  • Riki Paea and Hamiora Whanau, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health

Foundation Level 4 Recipients

For Recognition of Academic Achievement

  • Pasifika: Orlando Alofia, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health
  • Māori: Darcel Kite, Creative Industries

For Recognition of Community Commitment

  • Pasifika: Feleti Amosa, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health
  • Māori:Te Aroha Mahanga, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health

Foundation Level 3 Recipients

For Recognition of Academic Achievement

  • Pasifika: Vaimosana Tovio, Humanities
  • Māori: Kath Conlan, Humanities

For Recognition of Community Commitment

  • Pasifika: Virisila Taufa, Humanities
  • Māori: Zivania Te Namu, Hospitality and Service Industries

Foundation Level 2 Recipients

For Recognition of Academic Achievement

  • Pasifika: Viva Fidow, Enterprise and Digital Innovation
  • Māori: Jordan Pou, Trades