Supporting future Māori accountants with the BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship

As the first Māori chartered accountant, Sir Henare Ngata used accounting as a tool for advocacy and worked tirelessly to serve the needs of Māori. Today, the BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship honours his work by providing national scholarships to three talented Māori students in their pursuit to become accountants. 

Offering financial assistance, an internship with a BDO firm, registration to the Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui, and mentorship with BDO, the scholarship aims to help address the underrepresentation of Māori within the accounting profession. 

To shine a light on the scholarship experience, we spoke to our 2023 recipients about their accounting journeys, why they applied for the scholarship, and what advice they have for applicants in 2024.


Taking the next step
I’d been working in financial administration for years and progressed as much as I could in that career path, and it was now or never to take the next step. I bit the bullet and in June this year I’ll have completed my Bachelor of Accounting. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it.
More than a financial scholarship
Early on in my degree, I researched scholarships and made a note of the BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship. While researching other scholarships, this one appealed because it’s not just a financial scholarship, but an internship, mentorship, and the Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui. Less than 3% of accountants come from Māori descent, so having this type of support is good to encourage accounting businesses to better reflect our community.
A sense of achievement
Applying for this scholarship was different to others – I felt like BDO got to know me and what I have to offer. Receiving the scholarship gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivation, especially as it’s a national achievement.
Finding my space within accounting
In my internship with BDO Gisborne, I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve studied into practice. I’m keen to learn and hopefully be able to bring new perspectives to the team. I'm eager to learn about different parts of the business, working across different teams, which will help me find my place within the profession.
A reminder of my capability
I think it’s good to challenge yourself and I’ve done that by applying for this. Putting myself out there was uncomfortable but pushing past that, going through the interview process, and receiving the scholarship has been a reminder of my capability. Through the scholarship I’ve spoken with leaders in the business and hopefully left an impression on them – and I’m excited to attend the upcoming hui.
Pushing self-doubt aside 
My advice for people considering this scholarship is: just apply! Push the self-doubt aside and put your best foot forward - the worst thing that can happen is you don’t get it. You’ll still get your name out there and have the experience of applying and maybe even interviewing, which could lead to other opportunities.
Giving back
I want to work towards becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA). Long-term I’d like to offer my services to the community, for example offering governance to a board of a charity; I’ve seen the value of having someone with that expertise donating their time. I’d love to be able to give back in that way.


A passion for accounting
I did commerce all the way through high school and university – I was pretty set on what I wanted to do from an early age and have always liked numbers. I’m currently at uni, studying accounting and international business with a minor in Māori.
Inspired by BDO
At uni, I attended a Māori accounting workshop which featured presentations from different firms, including BDO, who spoke about the scholarship. The BDO speakers were inspiring, explaining the values of BDO and the details of the scholarship. They made me want to apply.
Scholarships for Māori accountants 

It means a lot to receive this scholarship – it feels good that there’s scholarships out there specifically for Māori accountants, to get more Māori into the profession. I am proud to be one of the people to receive the scholarship.

A head start for the future
My summer internship with BDO Nelson has been great – I’ve learned so much and it’s going to be awesome for the future as it will give me a head start. I’m from Nelson and there aren’t many internships here, so having this at BDO is fantastic.
Understanding accounting beyond bookwork
The scholarship gives me a head start compared to my peers who aren’t doing internships. The financial support is a big help. Then there are things like knowing how an office works and operates, and understanding accounting skills beyond the bookwork that you get in uni.
Preparing for applying
My advice for potential applicants is: Know yourself, learn your own answers to behavioural questions that normally come up in interviews, and be honest. Go for it!
Giving back to my iwi
In the future, I want to do my CA and I also want to do something involving my iwi and the Māori community – my goal is to be involved and give back.


New priorities, new career
I was working long night shifts at labouring jobs, once I had my son my priorities changed, I wanted a child-friendly job where I could be around for my child’s special moments. I’d been out of education for years but took a money management course at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and thoroughly enjoyed it, so enrolled for a Bachelor of Business Studies at Eastern Institute of Technology, Tairāwhiti. The first year was awesome – then it got trickier!
Learning from someone in the field
While at EIT Tairawhiti, Kylee Potae, BDO Gisborne Managing Partner, came in as a guest speaker. She mentioned the lack of Māori representation in accounting, especially Māori women, which inspired me. I was fortunate enough to be selected for an internship with BDO Gisborne while finishing my degree. BDO staff encouraged me to put myself forward for the scholarship.

The mentorship part of the scholarship really made me want to apply. Having a mentor means I’ll learn and be taught by someone with knowledge and expertise in this field. The scholarship money is great, but the mentorship means the most for the future – it’s education you can take to the bank.
Understanding the real world of accounting
Receiving this scholarship means I’m able to focus on my education. It’s also helped pay off my student loans faster! Being in the real world of accounting, not stuck behind a textbook, helps to understand the job. I’ve learned all clients are different with different needs. Although I’ve finished studying, I’m still learning a huge amount.
Seeing the impacts of our work
My journey with BDO Gisborne is a work in progress! Before the scholarship I was working in admin as a temporary receptionist, which included interacting with clients – so while the accounting side is new to me, I have already developed relationships with people at BDO. It’s been so interesting learning about our clients and how our work impacts them. I can drive around and see their farms and understand how far our work reaches. Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel out to one of our client’s farms - this was a chance to see behind the numbers.
Long lasting relationships 
Long-term, the mentorship will be help me the most. Even once the mentorship ends, it’ll have given me relationships with people from across different teams, so I’ll know who to go to with questions!
Soak up the experience
My advice for people considering applying is: Give it a go! The application process is good experience and there are networking opportunities too. Try to get insights from previous students to understand how to navigate the peaks and troughs of studying and working - there’s a big learning curve when you start work. It’s been an eye-opening experience - and sometimes eye-watering!
Sharing my knowledge
In the future, I hope to become a CA. I want to help whānau and use my knowledge to help people who may struggle to understand finance. Once I’ve gained the knowledge, I want to share it, not just keep it to myself. 
Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi

With your basket and my basket the people will thrive 

Applications for the 2024 BDO Sir Henare Ngata Scholarship open in March 2024. Find out more, including how to apply, here