“Be confident in yourself – never live in fear”: The BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship for Māori accountants

The winners of the BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship for Māori accountants have been announced! Each winner has written a blog article to share their stories and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Our second article comes from Joyana Tarawa:

Joyana Tarawa - BDO Māori accounting scholarship winner


Watch Joyana's video here

My mum is an accountant and so are a few of my cousins – they’ve always been role models to me in that regard. In my first year of High School I chose accounting and really enjoyed it.

After I left school, we didn’t have a lot of money and I didn’t think university would be an option, so I took up a job as a tradie. I loved being outside and doing physical work, but after a few years my body was getting tired. Then Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister, and she brought in free fees for the first year of uni. I knew then that this was my opportunity. I started with a Bachelor of Commerce, taking all the available papers, and quickly decided that it was the accounting papers that made the most sense to me. I wanted to learn more about money and tax and how the Government uses their money.

Using accounting to help others

One day, I want to own a charitable trust that provides an education to children living in third world countries. I want to be able to feed them and give them a better standard of living. To do that, I know I will need to understand how real estate, investments, business plans and financial management work. Accounting will enable me to become more financially literate and give me the skills I need to help others, especially children.

Making the first brave steps

I first heard about the Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship in an email from uni. When I looked at the role I initially decided not to apply because I didn’t think I would meet their requirements, but then my friend sent it to me again and told me there’s no harm in applying. I thought about it some more and realised I would lose nothing by trying - but could lose everything by not trying.

I was so happy to find out I’d been successful! The financial assistance from the scholarship is great, but it’s the internship that really excites me. I believe anyone can do anything with the right support and I love that BDO has such a strong buddy and mentoring system. I’m really looking forward to the training and support I’ll receive – I’ve already met the people I’ll be working with, and they were so lovely and very helpful. I told BDO I still don’t know what I want to specialise in – they responded by setting up the internship so that I can try every area and see what suits me best.

There are so many negative stereotypes of our people, so as a young child you tend to think a position like this isn’t possible, that you will have to settle or become those stereotypes, especially when this is reinforced in the environment you grow up in. I always had white role models but never any that looked like me.

I want to be a role model for our tamariki, especially Māori. Because of the way I was treated by teachers at kura, I want kids who might be facing similar challenges to have someone to look up to that is just like them. To know that great things are possible if you work hard and believe in yourself, don’t let anyone else determine your future based on your ethnicity or anything else!

Appreciating me for being me

My advice to anyone who might be in a similar position to me is that you lose nothing by trying. During my interview with BDO, I feel like I was the most myself I’ve ever been in an interview. So much so, that I left thinking; if I get it then that’s great because they liked who I am as a person, and if I don’t get it, then that’s also okay because I wouldn’t have been able to be myself there anyway. Then when I found out I’d been successful, I knew that BDO appreciated me for being me. It’s important not to live in fear, you just need to be confident in yourself.


Read the first article in our series, from Taimus Ritai, here!