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Portia Barcello, Wakatū Scholar & Intern

Photos: Kate Macpherson

Portia Barcello is one of our Te Hunga Panuku. She is a Wakatū scholarship recipient and was the 2018/2019 summer intern at Wakatū. She tells us more about herself, and what the support she's received from Wakatū has meant to her.

I’m of Māori and Italian heritage – both cultures that share a love of whānau and food. My connection into Wakatū is via my dad, and my Ngāti Rārua whānau. I’m the only girl and the youngest in my family – my two brothers are a bit older than me. My mum, dad and brothers are all outdoorsy and sporty – so it was natural that I was too! I grew up around Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds and spent a lot of time in the bush and in the sea. My mum and dad are in the commercial fishing industry, and I’ve worked for them as a deckhand and a commercial pāua diver. Our idea of a good time together as a family is to go spear-fishing, or diving for kōura or pāua. I love eating kaimoana fresh from the sea – there’s nothing like thinly sliced pāua quickly cooked over a beach fire.

At school I was really into sports, including netball and kempo. I also rowed in eights and fours crews at a competitive level. It was great for my fitness and learning how to work as part of a team, but the rowing training was intense and demanding, and sometimes I would fall asleep at school, so not ideal for study. I think some of my teachers were surprised when I chose an academic path. I’m the first in my family to go to university, and the academic side of things hasn’t always been easy. But I’ve managed to bring the discipline I learnt from competitive sport into my study, so that has definitely helped. I’ve also set myself a big challenge by doing a double degree. I started at Victoria University studying for a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in commercial law and minoring in Māori resource management. I found myself really enjoying my commercial law papers, so decided to go for a law degree as well.

At the end of my degree I’m planning on specialising in Māori resource management. My family’s livelihood is reliant on the health and well being of the land and sea, so I know how important it is to look after what we have for future generations. My connection to the natural environment played an important part in my upbringing, and has helped define who I am and what my values are. I love that one of the values for Wakatū is kaitiakitanga, and taking care of resources and sustainability is at the heart of what they do. I love that one of the values for Wakatū is kaitiakitanga, and taking care of resources and sustainability is at the heart of what they do.

I love that one of the values for Wakatū is kaitiakitanga, and taking care of resources and sustainability is at the heart of what they do.

This last summer I was an intern at Wakatū, which was great on a number of levels. At university, a lot of the focus for law students is gearing us up to work at one of the big law firms. However, the week I spent with Kerensa Johnston gave me an insight into what it is like to be the CEO and an in-house legal counsel for a large organisation. I’m also inspired by Rachel Taulelei, who has a law degree, but went into international trade and is now running Kono.

The internship helped me gain an appreciation for all the different aspects Wakatū is involved with, as I got to spend time with the property team, as well as the Manaaki team.

As part of our scholarship, we do a short presentation at either an AGM or SGM. It was a bit daunting speaking in front of such a large group of people, but I was also grateful for the opportunity to say thank you in person to the Owners of Wakatū for supporting my study. I have appreciated the financial support but also the deepening of the connection between me and Wakatū. It’s also fantastic to be part of Te Hunga Panuku. It is inspiring meeting others of the Wakatū whānau, who are at all stages of their careers.

Wakatū Scholarships

Each year we invite Wakatū shareholders or descendants of Wakatū shareholders to apply for academic scholarships. Each scholarship provides the successful applicant with financial support for fees and books, for up to a maximum of three years. There are incentives for studying Te Reo Māori and achieving academic merit. We strongly encourage you to apply. 2019 applications open on 5 August and close on 31 August. More information, including the online application is on the Wakatū website: www.wakatu.org/education