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Thomas Tarurongo Wynne

Bachelor of Social Services (Counselling)

Capable NZ


Thomas Tarurongo Wynne talked about the journey he took and the people who helped him on his way to achieving his qualification at last week’s graduation.

Thomas spoke on behalf of Capable NZ graduates at the ceremony where he received his Bachelor of Social Services (Counselling).

He said his grandparents migrated from the beautiful Cook Islands to the very busy 1950s New Zealand so the family could access an education that hadn’t previously been available to them.

He said his parents worked in factories here.

“My mum ironing other people’s clothes. Washing other people’s dishes and floors. And my dad working on factory floors. Working, not for his success, but for the success of his children.”

Thomas said he stood on the shoulders of his parents so he could achieve all that he had. He also acknowledged his brothers, sisters, wife, children, and mentors.

Thomas first walked into a university thirty-five years ago. He faced internal and external obstacles and for one reason or another never made it across the finish line.

His journey since then had included five beautiful children and six gorgeous grandchildren. He had worked in factories, flour mills and schools, and in the Cook Islands in the office of the Prime Minister.

It was a year ago that his journey took a new path, when Capable NZ asked him three simple questions which he had never been asked before.

“Who are you, what do you know, and why?”

It was the first time in his learning experience somebody had acknowledged that he, like many of his fellow Capable NZ graduates, had been on a journey.

“On that journey we have navigated storms and good weather. And in that tempest we have learned to steer our waka through those waters so as today we can celebrate just one very significant part of that journey – our graduation.”

Thomas said had not taken the journey alone and asked everyone to take a moment to honour to those whose shoulders they had stood on: “those who said I will take the weight, so you can see, so you can hear, and so you can know what I could not.”