Daniel Albert - the rise of a young leader


Daniel Albert was born in Gisborne in 1995. He is a combination of Tuhoe from the Bay of Plenty, and Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui from the East Coast. He has two brothers, both of whom are quite a bit older than he is. 

Averalle and Daniel

Daniel spent one year with his parents in Gisborne before his mother asked her elder sister, Averalle Paenga, to come and get him and take him down to live with her and her husband Keith in Porirua. So, for the past 18 years, Daniel has been whangai, living with another member of his family. He calls Averalle, Mum. They are very close although he still sees his birth mother at family gatherings.

When Daniel was three, he went to Kohanga Reo in Horurouta on Whitford Brown Avenue. Here he learnt Te Reo Maori, the official Maori language, until he was five and although Maori was not spoken at home, he soon became fluent.

Daniel moved to Rangikura School in Ascot Park when he was five. It wasn’t long before he started to get into trouble and was suspended for a couple of weeks for behavioural issues. Although he had high levels of literacy and could read and write and do maths, his behavioural problems led to him seeing counsellors and he was put on various programmes. Things didn’t look good for the next few years and no-one who knew Daniel at that time could have guessed that he would transform his attitude and become the highly successful young man that he is today.

Things began to change for Daniel when he was ten years old and he found himself in the class of Ondine Souter. It was she who turned Daniel around and who helped him to see the light at the end of the tunnel. At that time his literacy levels were still high but he wasn’t all that good at maths. Ondine Souter helped Daniel to get to know people and to understand how they ticked. He was a bit of a loner and can’t remember having any friends at this time. Ondine gave him a buddy and some serious one to one time, something he hadn’t experienced from teachers until then because they seemed to think that he was ‘trouble’.

Luckily for Daniel, he moved from Ondine Souter’s class into that of Eddie Uluilelata who was Ondine’s partner and who is now the Principal of Rangikura School. His approach to Daniel was the same as Ondine’s had been, putting in a lot of effort to make sure that he achieved.

Daniel became interested in leadership, particularly Maori leadership and he excelled at making speeches. In fact, he held a lot of leadership positions when he was 12 and in his final year of primary school he held a coaching position with the soccer team and was the gear monitor. He also instructed on a fitness programme called Jump Jam and had leadership positions in ballroom dancing which he enjoyed. In fact, at the senior prize giving he won the Te Reo Maori cup which was pretty special, considering that Te Reo was not spoken in the school.

Daniel moved on to college at Aotea. His first year went well and he was in a ‘pretty good class’. His years at Aotea weren’t always perfect and there were a lot of ups and downs. But he didn’t get into any major trouble and friendships developed. His behavioural problems began to disappear, he could focus and he became more and more involved in school activities. He took on the position of sound technician at the school and had a keen interest in music studies. He loved PE, English and Maori, social studies and playing the guitar.

It was during his later years at College that all sorts of good things started to happen. In Year 11 he started coming out of his shell and took more leadership positions, growing sufficiently confident to stand up in a crowd and talk in front of people older than he was.  He organised the welcome for the new Maori teacher. He organised the Kapa Haka groups and taught them songs and played for them as well as speaking. And while all this was going on he achieved his NCEA Level 1 with merit.

In Year 12 Daniel took even more responsibilities with the school and started refereeing basketball.

He had a seat on the School Council and continued with the Kapa Haka and as a Committee member with the Whanau Advisory Group. It was during this year that he was awarded the Dominion Post College Sport Wellington Official of the Year for basketball. Meanwhile his education went really well and he passed NCEA Level 2. By this stage, Daniel had gained a lot of respect from his peers, from the teachers and from the wider community as well.

Year 13 arrived and Daniel went on to pass NCEA Level 3 and gain university entrance. He became the Maori Cultural Advisor for the school and co-Chair of the School Council. At prize giving he won the Year 13 Te Reo Maori Cup and the ASB Community Bursary Award. Things were definitely looking up.

Since leaving College, Daniel has spent a year at Victoria University of Wellington where he has been studying a Bachelor of Maori. At the end of the first year he gained a Diploma in Maori and has helped to tutor other students taking Maori language. He sat on the Maori Students Executive Board, Ngai Tauira.

Daniel is currently taking time off from University but expects he’ll return before too long to continue his studies. He would like to gain a PhD in Maori and has been offered a place to study Maori and Politics (which he loves, particularly as it relates to Maori people) at Waikato University for the second semester of 2013. However, he has secured a job with Maori Health with the Capital Coast District Health Board as a policy analyst based at Wellington Hospital so he may have to delay the studies briefly.  His main goal in life is to help to revitalise Maori language.

In his leisure time, Daniel plays interclub squash for Tawa, coaches squash in schools at the Tawa club, and works out at the gym. He loves swimming and made the Mana Swimco Development Squad (now Porirua City Aquatics). He has been a member of the Titahi Bay Surf Lifesaving Club since he was 6 (when he was a Nipper). He achieved his Lifesaving Bronze when he was thirteen and is now one of the Head Coaches for the juniors. He has been patrolling Titahi Bay beaches for many years and is one of their chief lifeguards. He is the Club’s cultural advisor and is on the call-out squad.

Daniel’s love of swimming extends to other water sports. He has been doing Waka Ama (outrigging canoeing) almost since he was born. His cousin is the New Zealand coach and Daniel would go up to Gisborne to train for about two months in the lead up to the nationals at Lake Karapiro in Cambridge. There are six in Daniel’s boat. The highlight of his Waka Ama was winning a bronze medal at the International Va’a Federation World Championships in

 Commentator at Waka Ama

Sacramento California in 2008. He coaches the sport at Ngati Toa and at Whitireia Polytechnic. He is currently heavily involved with commentating the sport and helps to do the commentary for Maori television.

Daniel is a member of the Waitangirua Lions Club who have sponsored him twice on a leadership programme at an international youth camp in Rotorua for two weeks. The first time he went he was one of the students on the course. The second time, he went as one of the camp leaders.

That was in January 2013. Over forty people attended from all over the world. Daniel says that it was ‘life changing’. He made friends with a whole raft of people including future lawyers and doctors.

 Korowai blessing before Tuhoe Deed signing

Daniel’s most recent achievement was to be involved with the Tuhoe signing of their Deed of Settlement at Queen’s Birthday in June 2013. After blessing his korowai (cloak) before the ceremony, he posed for a photo standing beside a bust of one of his heroes, Sir Apirana Ngata, the first Maori Member of Parliament from 1905-1943.

And as if all these achievements aren’t enough, he has just been nominated as Youth Maori Advisor on the National Board of the DARE Foundation

From somewhat inauspicious beginnings, Daniel Albert has done much to make his family, teachers, friends and the community justly proud of him. We will watch his progress with interest.


See Wendy Betteridge's blog post 'A scythe or some fertiliser?'




Daniel Albert - the rise of a young leader

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