Jeremy Banks - Trustee profile

Growing up in Central Otago, Jeremy’s upbringing is quite a contrast to his world today. His grandparents and generations before them, grew up in a New Zealand where te reo was discouraged in schools and so naturally it was discouraged in the home, so there was little focus on the Māori language or culture through his schooling years. However, that is not the case in the Banks’ household today. Jeremy, his wife Melissa and his three daughters speak reo fluently, and at home it is their first language and the foundation of their software company. Learning te reo, tikanga and his whakapapa came later in Jeremy’s life.

So, how did one Otago, Computer Science graduate journey from not knowing a word of te reo to building apps to teach others the language?

In 2004, Jeremy and his wife Melissa travelled to Japan on their OE. Jeremy knew next to no Japanese and very few people spoke English in the village they were in, so in his efforts to do a little English teaching himself, he set a challenge to also teach himself Japanese using a specific repetitive ‘building blocks’ learning methodology.

On Melissa and Jeremy’s return to Aotearoa, they settled down in Wellington, got married and started their family.

Jeremy is from Ngāti Rārua, Rangitāne and Ngāti Kuia, and whakapapa’s to several tūpuna from the Te Tau Ihu rohe. Through Wakatū’s hui, Jeremy applied for the governance succession programme, which he was successful in his second year applying. This began Jeremy’s journey into governance roles and kick started his ambition to learn te reo.

Starting from the beginning

Applying the same principles and methodology he used to learn Japanese, Jeremy purchased a te reo book from Trade Me and started from the beginning.

As a computer science graduate Jeremy had the skills to build a rudimentary app to use his learning methodology in a more interactive way. What he didn’t realise at the time was that he was building an app with far wider applications that would impact thousands of people.

An accidental entrepreneur

Using the basic structure of the app he had built for his personal learning, Jeremy came up with his idea now known today as Tipu – an educational mobile app that helps all ages to learn te reo.

With his idea for Tipu only being an idea at the time, he applied for funding grants. A great deal of perseverance and commitment, Jeremy eventually had two separate applications accepted and approved for development.

Jeremy took the leap and left his day job to build Tipu. Plink Software was born.

The key focus for Tipu was to improve access to learning te reo, and three years on Tipu’s stats show the app teaches someone a new word or sentence every three minutes. Jeremy’s application of personalised progression memory is what makes Tipu so effective at teaching a user to speak te reo correctly, rather than just using common words or phrases.

Tipu has now been developed to be used as an in-schools programme where teachers and parents can access detailed information about the progress of their tamariki as they use Tipu.

The next step

Jeremy is a natural leader and has held several governance roles. In 2013 he was appointed as a Trustee of the Ngāti Rārua Ᾱtiawa Iwi Trust, and after 26 years of the Vice Chair position only ever being held by Barney Thomas, the Board saw Jeremy appointed as the Trust’s second Vice Chair in 2019.

With education and language being such a big part of Jeremy’s mahi, working to advocate and promote the education programmes offered by the Ngāti Rārua Ᾱtiawa Iwi Trust is a natural fit. Making the education programmes and the funding opportunities matter to the owners of Ngāti Rārua Ᾱtiawa Iwi Trust is a key goal for Jeremy in the years ahead in his Vice Chair role.

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