Story by Stuff Reporter- Eva Davies
“While I was working, I ended up looking around at all the old fullas that were working with me and thinking to myself, that’s not what I want to be.
“As Māori we think we only belong in labour and high risk jobs so being able to get out of that mindset has been pretty cool.”
Ritai, who has spent most of his life living in Waitara, was encouraged to start studying by his dad, who did a double major in marketing and management.
“Being the Māori that I am I thought I was too dumb to do it, but I ended up taking my old man's advice and started studying.”
Four weeks after handing in his resignation, Ritai went head first into study.
The 30-year-old started with a leadership diploma and found his love for accounting through the papers he was taking.
“I ended up carrying on into a degree,” Ritai said.
“Getting back into learning has been the best part.”
He is now one of three winners of the BDO Sir Henare Ngata scholarship.
He will begin his internship with BDO this year and receive $7500 for study-related costs.
The scholarship also provided registration for Ngā Kaitatau Māori o Aotearoa hui, and mentorship with BDO for his final year of study.
Ritai said although he was loving his accounting studies, his passion was to be able to bring the knowledge he had learned back to his iwi and hapū.
“It will be great when we can get to the stage where Māori organisations can look to our own people rather than outsourcing work.”
Ritai said his motivation was to encourage Māori communities, who are significantly under-represented in accounting jobs, to have a go at something new.
“To any other Māori who are thinking about taking on this path of accounting – do it!
“I thought getting a degree was good enough but now that I’m where I am today I want to carry on.
“Just take it one step at a time.”