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Ian Taylor and Mary Quin steal the show for M?ori at the NZ Hi Tech awards

Blogs and acronyms have become the norm these days. It takes something really big to inspire me to write a blog, and my staff will tell you I use acronyms all the time. One that I use with them often is SBD – same but different. I use this to explain in simple terms why we have a M?ori economy team and why we have many M?ori economy initiatives. The suite of services for firms is generally the same; however the approach, tactics and initiatives used to engage and inspire M?ori are very often different.  One such initiative was launched on Friday 20 May in Auckland – the inaugural M?ori Hi Tech Awards at the 20th anniversary of the NZ Hi Tech Awards. The launch of this award and the impact that Ian Taylor and Dr Mary Quin had on the audience when launching the award is the inspiration for my blog.

Image: Ian Taylor, media and technology entrepreneur at the Hi Tech awards in Auckland

To put the awards into context, they are the premium New Zealand event for technology entrepreneurs.  Last year I was privileged to attend and witness a M?ori success story – Grant Straker from Straker Translations took out one of the premium Hi Tech Awards. When accepting the award, Grant put the challenge out to M?ori as follows:  “We need more M?ori here tonight, not just working behind the bar”. This was both thought provoking and challenging.  Fortunately I was sitting next to my chief executive, Dr Mary Quin, and we accepted that challenge with both hands.  Grant was spot on – there wouldn’t have been any more than ten M?ori in the audience.  So along with Ian Taylor and Grant, we went about changing this by creating the M?ori Innovation Hi Tech Award.

Fast forward 12 months and here we are, sitting at the awards again.  The stage has been set; the chair, Wayne Norrie, opens the evening in Te Reo, providing a great scene setter for Ian and Mary, who are about to launch the new M?ori Hi Tech Award in front of a full house.  Ian is on familiar territory as he is among his friends from the mainstream entrepreneurial world, but this time he is proudly wearing his M?ori hat. He uses his innovative animation technology to tell the M?ori story of the creation and the great migration, ending and beginning his korero in Te Reo – a language he has not grown up with and which he does not feel confident in.

Ian explained the significance of the launch of M?ori Innovation Hi Tech Award, recalling as a child being taught about Captain Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, but not hearing anything about the great M?ori entrepreneurs of the great migration, the risk takers, the early adopters that M?ori were. “As a M?ori kid, we grew up without M?ori role models. Well, tonight that’s about to change,” Ian emphatically told the audience. “Now some might ask why we need a separate award. Are we not good enough to enter in the mainstream categories?” He then showed that M?ori were indeed able to go up against the very best by acknowledging Grant Straker as a finalist in the new award and a winner in the awards last year.  Ian then noted that there were a huge 22 entries in the new category, marking a record that should be celebrated.  “Watch this space for M?ori – tonight is only the beginning.”

Image: Mary Quin, CEO Callaghan Innovation, at the Hi Tech awards

Mary Quin began her speech by acknowledging local iwi, those prominent people in the audience and the late Sir Paul Callaghan, as well as all the M?ori businesses that had entered the awards. No reading from notes and perfect pronunciation – and all in Te Reo. This was from a non-M?ori Chief Executive who had spent all her career overseas, speaking to a predominantly non-M?ori audience. Mary had intended to then translate her speech into English, however the occasion beckoned for her to be bold – and she was, by letting the M?ori words stand for themselves. The impact in the room was powerful; two well respected leaders in the mainstream environment embracing M?ori leadership to a predominantly non-M?ori audience.

As the names of the six finalists in the M?ori Hi Tech Award category were read out – with all of them doing amazing things in the technology world – one couldn’t help but warmed by the positive kaupapa of these entries. They included improving M?ori health, teaching young M?ori to code, and focusing on education, culture and sustainability. The winner on the night was Tiaki, a collaboration of M?ori fishing businesses embracing technology for sustainability in the fishing industry. Although Tiaki took out the award on the night, all M?ori were the winners. This included the 22 entrants, the Hi Tech Trust for embracing, without question, the new award category, Ian Taylor, and the formidable leadership of Ian and Mary combined. Finally I want to acknowledge Grant Straker for being bold.  As I said to him on the night “Be careful what you ask for, as you might just get it”.

Image: Hemi Rolleston leads Callaghan Innovation’s haka, Rukuhia

It was therefore fitting to end the launch of the award with the Callaghan Innovation haka Rukuhia!!, which is about being bold in pursuit of excellence and making a difference. From my perspective the words in the haka certainly summed up the night.

This article originally appeared on Callaghan Innovation’s blog.

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