Otago Polytechnic

Graduation day

10:00 am 

Graduand morning tea for students only at OPAIC Level 1 


Meet at Aotea Square for photographs and parade  


Student Registration at the Town Hall 


P¯owhiri and ceremony begin at the Great Hall 


Ceremony concludes 

whiri and Opening Ceremony

Graduation begins with P¯owhiri. A Pōwhiri is a formal Māori welcome ceremony conducted by the Kaumātua (elders) of the iwi kainga, literally the “home people” (hosts). It is a highly ritualised encounter between hosts and manuhiri (visitors). While some practices may differ amongst various tribes and Māori services, the intention of the encounter is always the same: to clear the tapu (restrictions) off the manuhiri, to create a spiritually safe environment and to establish the purpose of meeting together.

The Pōwhiri is unique to the Māori culture and is conducted in te reo Māori (the Māori language). It starts with a karanga (call of welcome). The matriarchs (senior women) from both the host and the visitors’ group* perform this ritual. It acknowledges the spirituality of the encounter and clears the pathway for a safe entrance to the marae ātea (courtyard/ hall), and then into te waahi hui (the meeting place), te kākano.  *Otago Polytechnic has instituted the use of bagpipes as our part of the karanga, i.e. the lament of the bagpipes replaces the traditional karanga. 

The next ritual is the hongi (traditional greeting), where the host extends their right hand to the visitor who extends their right hand, they shake hands and then briefly press their noses together - both the forehead and the nose should touch at the same time. This action is gentle to avoid the accidental 'headbutt'. The manuhiri will advance in single file and 'hongi' the hosts before going to their seats. Guests should remain standing during this process.

Next, one of the Kaumātua will say a karakia (prayer). This ritual acknowledges the encounter between host and visitor and the purpose of the gathering. It calls for a semblance of peace and unity within. A hīmene (hymn, song of praise) typically accompanies the karakia. Both hosts and visitors may now be seated.

Next, the whaikōrero (formal speeches) commence. The Kaumātua (elders) of both the hau kāinga (home people) and the manuhiri (visitors) lead these, which are accompanied by waiata performed by the iwi kāinga. The manuhiri kaikōrero (visitors’ spokesperson) have the right of reply, and a suitable waiata should accompany this.

With the formalities completed, the host Kaumātua will complete the ceremony with a karakia or so designate that the visitors’ Kaumātua can close.


Presentation of qualifications 

All Capable NZ awards will be presented first (certificates, then degrees, then diplomas), followed by all Auckland International Campus awards. All awards will be presented by their relevant Schools. Graduands’ names will be read alphabetically.


Conferring of degrees

For those receiving Master and Bachelor degrees, you should hold your trencher in your left hand as you cross the stage. The Chairperson will confer your degree by holding her own trencher over your head. As soon as this happens, you should put your trencher on your head, collect your award from the Chief Executive, and continue crossing the stage (wear your trencher for the remainder of the ceremony). For those receiving Graduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Diplomas, you should already be wearing your trencher as you cross the stage.

Please ensure you leave any personal items (e.g. cameras, handbags, cell phones) with your guests. Out of respect, cell phones must be switched off during the ceremony.


Special Student Awards

These will be presented by the Executive Director following the academic award presentations. Those students receiving Special Student Awards will be notified in writing prior to the Graduation Ceremony.


Conclusion of ceremony

Ngāti Whātua will officially close the ceremony. The Official Party will then leave in procession. Staff, graduates, then guests will follow.



After the ceremony, you and your guests are welcome to attend a celebratory after-functionA professional photographer will be available during the after-function to take portrait-style photos for purchase.