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“Don’t be ashamed to try something new”: The BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship for Māori accountants

06 May 2022

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 last article comes from Erutini Paringatai-Walker:

Erutini Paringatai-Walker - BDO Māori accounting scholarship winner

I grew up in a small settlement on the East Coast. After school I had a lot of different options, there was the defence forces, building, sailing on ships, university, but at the time I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. In the end I went back to the school office and enrolled in a Degree Course offered at EIT Tairāwhiti majoring in accounting. Accounting isn’t really part of the curriculum where I grew up and no-one really knew what it was but they knew what an ‘Accountant’ was, I had always been good at maths so thought it would be a good idea to choose something with numbers.  

I loved my first and second year and then COVID-19 came along and all our learning went online. I didn’t know how to learn online at the time and ended up pulling out of study to continue working. During my second year my tutor reached out and said that BDO Gisborne was looking for job placements for Māori students. I’ve been working and studying with BDO since 2019 and I am looking at finishing my degree this year.  

At first it was quite hard managing both work and study. I found accounting very different in practice compared to what we’d learnt in the classroom. But I soon got my head around it and found that having the opportunity to do real-world accounting helped me to understand technical terms and it complemented my study really well.  

Giving back to the community 

BDO is like a whānau – we have regular catch ups to make sure I’m able to manage both work and study. Now that hybrid is an option it’s helped as well as I still live quite far out of Gisborne. It’s been great to work with Māori businesses and I feel a sense of joy knowing I’m helping my whānau. I’m connected by lineage to a lot of my clients and I really feel a sense that I’m giving back to my community.  

The reason I became an accountant is so I can give back to my Whānau, Hapū and Iwi. There’s a shortage of people on the Coast that know financial literacy, and there aren’t many resources, it’s still two and a half hours to Gisborne which is where the nearest chartered accountants are. Once I’ve completed Tertiary Studies and my CA and gotten as much experience as I can, I hope to bring these sorts of resources back into the region. I would love to start a programme that reaches back into the smaller communities. 

I didn’t know whether I’d be eligible for the scholarship as I was already working with BDO, but with a few days to go, I sat down and hammered out an application, and was so grateful to hear that I’d been awarded one of the three scholarship places.  

Never be ashamed to try something new 

All three aspects of the scholarship will be extremely helpful – the tuition fees will be great, and I know I will really benefit from the mentorship. I’m also super excited to have a place on the Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui. Last year I missed out on this because of family commitments and I had heard so many stories of how awesome it was. I’m really looking forward to attending and building up my networks.  

If I could go back and tell my younger self something I would say “Do not to define yourself by the options you have. Just because your dad is a builder doesn’t mean you have to be a builder. You can be your own person, and you should definitely not be ashamed to try something new”.  

Read the first article in our series, from Taimus Ritai, here, and our second article, from Joyana Tarawa here!