Douglas Newton receives his certificate in Arataki Manu Kōrero L4 from kaiako Mataia Keepa.
Douglas Newton is a familiar face on the Māngere campus of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa but the 73-year-old only ended up there because he got kicked out of home.
“I was happily retired, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea,” he says.
“My wife said to me 'get out and go do something' so I got in the car and drove around wondering what the heck I was going to do.”
What he did was find TWoA and enrol to study environmental management.
“I got addicted. Every day I was coming in to do research. Then I was approached to do Arataki Manu Kōrero level five and for me, it's been a journey of my own development.”
It’s a journey which began in the same town as TwoA, Te Awamutu.
"Where Te Wānanga o Aotearoa started is the place I come from. Back then growing up Te Awamutu was all bush,” he says.
Douglas – Ngāti Raukawa - joined the Army when he left school and served in Vietnam. On his return from active service, he was employed by the Ministry of Works to build dams on the Waikato River before heading south to work on the Clyde Dam in Central Otago.
“There were quite a few returned servicemen working on that dam too. One of my jobs was to supervise the geologists. They all came from overseas and were old - between 60 to 80. For me, they put interest into the area. We'd go to wāhi tapu and if the koroua of Ngāi Tahu told the engineers to change the plans, they did.”
While in the South Island, Douglas got involved with the Central Otago Health Authority and was the Māori representative for an education programme being run in Alexandra.
“I'm proud to say that the students I took care of got to university and did very well.”
He returned to Auckland in 1996 and worked as superintendent of the Ellerslie underground transmission tunnel, which runs to Hobson St in downtown Auckland, until his retirement.
But he’s not slowing down and intends studying towards a masters degree in Indigenous Knowledge.
“You learn, you think and then you create,” he says.