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Vocational Guidance for Māori (2): H.C. McQueen & K.T. Harawira

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Alice Taylor
30 January, 2021

Henry Charles McQueen was a ground-breaking educational researcher who proposed how vocational guidance for young Māori should be enacted. Kahi Takimoana Harawira implemented these proposals as the first Māori vocational guidance officer, but did so in a way that emphasised the importance of the Māori community and a Māori perspective. Their roles and perspective - one as a researcher looking from wider lens – and another, a Māori guidance officer interacting with Māori on an individual level – were underpinned by different aspirations for young Māori in the post-war years.



As a former teacher of technical education, McQueen had a particular interest in the development and expansion of vocational education in New Zealand. As research officer for the New Zealand Council for Educational Research he published two books on vocational guidance. In 1946, the government recognised his expertise by appointing him commissioner for apprenticeships within the Department of Labour.

McQueen’s second book, Vocations for Maori Youth, was published in 1945. As mentioned in the first post, the NZCER tasked McQueen to find the roots of and Māori youth unemployment  after leaving school, and solutions to preventing this. His work formed the backbone of sociological and educational research into this area, and therefore informed the approach to Māori vocational guidance in the years that followed.

McQueen’s solutions were practical and successfully implemented without much controversy. These included advocating for Māori vocational guidance officers to be appointed, as well as promoting Māori completion of post-primary education in order to be competitive in the work force.

At times his work and opinions were problematic. The Otago Daily Times reviewed his work in 1946, writing “Mr McQueen has examined the background of the Maori people carefully and with commendable detachment. He is at times critical of Maori traits and characteristics, and it is possible that his remarks may arouse some of the oversensitive national pride to which the Maori is prone but he does so in no harmful spirit”.

McQueen’s language contributed to the narrative of blame locating these in what he called innate Māori ‘traits’. For McQueen the need for vocational guidance for Māori was a contribution to solving the ‘Maori problem’.



Kahi Takimoana Harawira (Te Aupōuri), a Te Aute old-boy, was a sergeant-major in the Maori Pioneer Battalion in the First World War, who subsequently trained for the Anglican priesthood and was ordained in December 1920, working in the Taranaki and King Country regions. He served as chaplain to the 28th Māori Battalion for three years, and on his return to New Zealand stood unsuccessfully for Northern Māori in 1943 as an Independent Labour candidate. Soon after, he became the first Māori vocational officer, He was in charge of the Māori section of the Auckland Vocational Guidance Centre, and openly spoke out about racism in New Zealand society. He observed in 1944 that as a “vocational guidance officer he had observed more alarming signs of the colour bar at the present time than after the last war, in which he also served” and that it was “most difficult to place young Maoris in the jobs for which they were most qualified.”  He is also notable for his book, Teach Yourself Maori, published in 1950. 

As a vocational guidance officer he focused on Māori-centred approaches to education.  Harawira wrote a bilingual article for Te Ao Hou in 1954 explaining the work of vocational guidance.

He explained that he worked with families and communities as part of his duty to guide the young person to their vocation and “to obtain work for which they are best fitted so that their education is not wasted.”

Practically, this meant that “our work is to interview pupils who are nearing the end of their schooling, pointing out the various callings for which they are suitable, and answering questions.”

For Harawira, young Māori were not a ‘problem’, but brimming with a potential that vocational guidance could only enhance. Māori students “are the Maori people of the future and will be their leaders. Therefore they will need education, strong resolve, by faith and endurance, both in body and spirit. With the help of these their path will not deviate and happy and glad tidings will reach our maraes.”

Both McQueen and Harawira agreed that certain solutions, like the advocation of post primary school education, would help address the risk of potential unemployment for young Māori. Although McQueen emphasised agricultural training for Māori youth, Harawira looked more widely at possible career pathways, such as teaching, office work and nursing for women.

Harawira held his position as vocational guidance officer for 12 years. He can be distinguished from McQueen by the fact that he envisioned a different future for vocational guidance. McQueen sought to find a solution to a ‘Maori problem’, but Harawira saw education was important in achieving wider Māori aspirations, He also felt that education was essential in developing a new generation of leaders - this is especially so after the loss of potential leaders in the war, something he would have been aware of as a former chaplain to the Māori Battalion.

Image: Te Ao Hou, 9 (Spring 1954): 10.

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