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Ara mum and baby graduation clip goes viral

Kiisha-Rose warms hearts globally receiving her diploma and powerful haka

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It was a moment she simply wanted to share with whānau on her socials. Now millions of people worldwide have seen Kiisha-Rose Woodhouse graduate from Ara Institute of Canterbury with her baby son Hawaikii in her arms. 

Kiisha (Ngāi Te Rangi, Tūhoe, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) received her New Zealand Diploma in Information Technology (Technical Support) at the institute’s autumn graduation at the Wolfbrook Arena on 8 March. 

She now has two further years of study toward her Bachelor of Information and Communication Technologies specialising in cybersecurity while also studying te reo Māori Level 3. 

The graduation clip is swarming the internet with millions of views across Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook after some high-profile users shared the content. 

Woodhouse says the attention is overwhelming, but she’s delighted to share the moment. 

“It’s gone a bit wild overnight but it’s cool. I’ve received a lot of aroha and support.”  

She said the decision to carry Hawaikii onstage was quite spontaneous. 

“I was backstage and had just breastfed my son and didn’t want to stress about getting him back up to his dad in the audience.  But anyway, it seemed right to have him with me. He deserves the diploma as much as I do because he attended all the classes with me in my puku,” she said. 

Not only did Hawaikii cross the stage, hearing the powerful haka tautoko from his dad which silenced the stadium and brought his mum to tears, the eight-month-old was handed the graduation parchment from Ara operations lead Darren Mitchell. 

Ara Manager of Regional Responsiveness Jan Connelly oversees the team who stage the huge graduation event. She said while it was not usual practice to have whānau members backstage or on stage with the logistics of managing 1000 graduates across two ceremonies, the moment came about after staff supported Kiisha to care for her baby’s needs before her qualification was called. 

“At the time it wasn’t possible to reunite baby with his dad who was in the gallery waiting to tautoko her achievements, so we made this one-off exception for him to go on stage.  It certainly provided a heartwarming moment in what is always a very special day for us,” Connelly said. 

Woodhouse is passionate about her continued study in cybersecurity and was back in class within two weeks of giving birth last year. She says her Ara tutors have been 100 percent supportive when she’s had to bring him on campus.  

“There was one time when my teacher actually took him and walked him around the class while I took a test. They’ve helped in every way,” she said. 

“I’m trying to open that door for Māori women in this industry and people say doing the weekly te reo class too is a bit of a workload.  But I’m speaking it at home all the time. I want it (te reo) to be around my son. I enjoy it.” 

Hawaikii is mostly cared for by his stay-at-home dad and Woodhouse says he’s taking the attention in his stride. 

“People are even stopping me because they recognise him as the baby in the video. But he’s a very chill baby. We didn’t even notice that he was teething until his teeth popped up!” 

A baby and a māmā now popping up all over the globe.