Passion for Māori world and environment combine for scholarship winner



Bruce Vander Lee, Brooke Turner and Saskia Gray

Bruce Vander Lee, Brooke Turner and 2021 Project Janszoon Conservation Education Scholarship recipient Saskia Gray

A passion for the environment and the Māori world will provide the foundations for a career in law for the recipient of 2021’s Project Janszoon Conservation Education Scholarship.

19-year old Saskia Gray will use the $1000 scholarship towards her study for an Environmental Law degree at Canterbury University. Saskia was an Abel Tasman Youth Ambassador (ATYA) from 2018-2020, representing Te Āwhina Marae and Motueka High School.

Saskia says her involvement in ATYA developed her environmental knowledge. “I believe that when I complete my tertiary studies I can bring a new perspective to the environmental law field because I have knowledge and understanding of the Māori world and practices. I will be able to look at situations from both a scientific point of view and a cultural perspective.”

The scholarship was launched for students involved in ATYA, and Project Janszoon and the Department of Conservation’s education programme, to further their learning in the conservation, ecology, or leadership fields.

Motueka High School teacher Jane Sorenson says Saskia is a very deserving recipient, who has developed not only as a leader of her peers, but also as a strong young wahine toa.

“Her spirit and strong sense of identity both as Māori and a woman will make her formidable in the legal and political arenas. She will influence the development of our country. I do not think there could be a stronger contender for the scholarship.”

Saskia has shown leadership skills in many ways. In 2018 she came first in her category at Manu Korero, a regional speech competition, continuing on to the national competition. She has been actively involved in Kapa haka, mentoring younger students, and performing in the national secondary school competition in 2016. She was kaitātaki wahine (leader) for the Top of the South senior competition – the youngest to appear on stage in her team.

In 2018 she was part of a group of students who organised a youth music festival with the help of Te Piki Oranga. She was also the 2019 Kaitaunaki (Māori captain) for Motueka High School.

Project Janszoon education co-ordinator Brooke Turner says these achievements are even more impressive given Saskia has faced many health challenges recently, having to learn to manage chronic pain in her everyday life.

“Saskia took a tikanga leadership role both within the school and ATYA, gently encouraging others to step up and lead as well. From day one she was mentoring younger students, and sharing her knowledge as an ambassador, all the while dealing with health challenges. I am very proud of her achievements, and know she will do well with her further studies,” she says.

Abel Tasman Youth Ambassadors are chosen from schools who are part of the education programme.  Currently Motueka High School, Golden Bay High School, Motupipi Primary School, Lower Moutere School and Ngatimoti School are involved.


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