Catholic school in Gore adds cultural tattoos to uniform policy


Gore’s co-ed Catholic secondary has adjusted its uniform policy to make room for cultural tattoos.

The first St Peter’s College pupil to take advantage of the change is 16-year-old Dixie-Leigh Burr (pictured), who has just received her first tā moko.

The Year 11 pupil says she had been considering getting a tā moko for some time, and after discussions with her mum and koro (elder), she received their blessing.

In Māori culture, it is common for a whole family to go to the same artist to get their tā moko. Many have a family member that would take the role of tattooing their entire family, especially in the olden days, Burr says.

She chose to have her tā moko applied from Queenstown-based artist Renata Karena, who had already done her mother’s. This led to having discussions with Karena about what would best represent her journey so far, she says.

“There’s many different things that you could have … I chose my whānau … I could have put like where I’m from, like my actual whakapapa, like my maunga – my mountain, my awa – my river, I could have put that in there, but I chose my family first.”

Burr’s preparation for her tā moko happened to coincide with another student having similar thoughts.

St Peter’s College principal Tara Quinney says that student approached the school administration to ask to get a tā moko.

“We consulted our uniform policy, which actually had nothing in there whatsoever about tattoos at all,” she recalls.

The grey area in the uniform policy resulted in deputy principal Darren Jack undertaking consultation and research to find the best next step.

The school got in touch with the Hokonui Rūnanga, who suggested that they ask the student body themselves what they wanted, Quinney says.

The school set up an online survey about the matter with 150 of its 420 students participating.

“The overwhelming majority wanted students to represent their culture, that was the way they wanted to do it,” Quinney says.

Hokonui Rūnanga made various recommendations as to how to go about the rules of allowing students to get tattoos, particularly the tā moko.

It recommended the student must establish a connection to their whakapapa to get a tā moko.

The students must also have permission of both parents, and the permission of their koro, or an elder.

Hokonui Rūnanga cultural advisor Matu Coleman-Clarke says the student should not have been asking the school, but rather their whānau or koro.

“They should be letting them [the school] know out of courtesy, but really the permission should come from their whānau, so heading back to where they’re from.

“That’s what moko is about, it’s about your connections, knowing where you’re from,” he says.

Burr says at first she did not understand the need to ask for permission to get a ta moko, but her mum made her understand its significance.

“I felt like it’s more upheld now. That not everybody can get it. You know, it’s a privilege really,” Burr says.

St Peter’s College students will not need to keep their tattoos covered as long as they adhere to the school’s uniform policy conditions.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , ,