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Hori Barsdell (Ngāti Awa, Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāi Te Rangi, Te Arawa) - Physical Education (2010)


posted by Alastair McLean on 4 April 2012

When physical education student Hori Barsdell won the John McLeod Scholarship, it opened his eyes to the potential contribution he could make in the health arena.

The first physical education (PE) student to receive a John McLeod – a fact he still finds humbling – Hori believes PE has enormous potential benefits for Māori health.

‘When it comes to health, most people usually think of doctors,’ he said. ‘But there’s so much that can be done in the prevention area too, not just in curing and treating – steps that can be taken to avoid going to the doctor.’

Hori, who has always enjoyed outdoor activities and being active, is passionate about Māori and PE – ‘not so much telling people what to do, but inspiring them,’ he said

And he wants to work for the benefit of the community – not just a handful of people.

Hori attributes his achievements at university to hard work rather than ‘heaps of brains’.

He emphasises this with whānau members who think university is not for them.

‘I tell them I’ve come across people way less brainy than they are at university, and they’re doing fine. You just need to know how to work hard,’ he said.

He’s also had great support from whānau – the inspiration to pursue PE came from his father and an older cousin who both studied it at the University of Otago.

In 2010, Hori helped establish student-led Te Roopu Whakakaha Tinana - Physical Education Māori Association (PEMA). It encourages and supports Māori physical education students to achieve academic excellence. 

He is currently a member of the PEMA executive and was co-tumuaki with Renee Wikaire. Hori sees the roopu playing a major role in providing networking and mentoring opportunities for Māori physical education students in the future.

‘We’d like to encourage whakawhanaungatanga and bonding across the year levels, because university can be quite a scary place for Māori’ he said.

‘It’s the tuakana/teina philosophy really – the older students can give so much to the younger students because they’ve been through the system.’

Hori has lots of future goals.

He has completed his BPhEd degree and is now finishing his BA Māori (Hons) degree, aiming to graduate at the end of 2013

He’s keen to explore the health and well-being benefits of reconnecting with the environment (ngā atua Māori) through outdoor physical activities, rather than being locked in a concrete gym.

And he plans to work with rangatahi in his native Mataatua region, using the environment to create opportunities for them to experience some of the customs and practices of their ancestors such as mau rakau, waka ama, and kapa haka.

‘I love inspiring rangatahi – showing them that life’s not all about booze and x-boxes … Getting them on the natural highs through physical activity in the natural environments of our tīpuna,’ Hori said.

‘When I go home I see a lot of lost rangatahi. I used to dwell on that and get upset. But now I can use that as inspiration – fuel to climb the levels at university, so I can get in there and help them out.’