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Metro x St Cuthberts — Girls unplug and switch on self-belief at Kahunui

“The girls were all glowing when we picked our daughter up from Kahunui. They’ve had a life changing, irreplaceable experience. It’s hard to sum up our elation that our daughter has had the opportunity to participate in such an amazing adventure.” Parent of a St Cuthbert's Year 10 Student

Metro x St Cuthberts — Girls unplug and switch on self-belief at Kahunui

Aug 2, 2021 Schools

At St Cuthbert’s, we are dedicated to nurturing happy, capable and resilient young women who recognise and celebrate their unique talents. An important pillar is the expansive education outside the classroom programme at all levels of the school, from as young as five years old. The highlight is our Kahunui Life Skills Experience, now into its second decade, which takes place at St Cuthbert’s own remote campus.

Kahunui – meaning ‘big hawk’ in te reo Māori – is a St Cuthbert’s owned and operated 141-hectare property located in the Bay of Plenty, where our Year 10 girls spend close to four consecutive weeks and our Year 13 cohort returns to for five days.

Kahunui is a very special place where girls focus on making the most of the amazing location. St Cuthbert’s is the only girls’ school to offer a life skills experience on a separate school-owned campus.

It’s a truly transformative adventure during which our students are challenged and learn many important life lessons. The programme is designed to advance all levels of girls’ fitness – social, physical, emotional, and intellectual. During this time, the girls are unplugged – no phones, laptops or devices, with the only communication back home being via post. Our girls emerge with new-found resilience and self-confidence, and a fresh appreciation of their home and family.

Run by a dedicated team of academic/outdoor instructors, Kahunui welcomes groups of approximately 24 Year 10 students in a number of intakes across the year. Groups of eight students live in and manage their own house including their own cleaning, laundry, menu planning, budgeting, gardening and cooking.

In addition, students take part in an all-encompassing outdoor education programme designed to strengthen essential life skills. They throw themselves into out- door activities ranging from tramping, kayaking, and blow-carting to fishing, small boat handling, fire lighting and solo survival camping.

The instructors take a walk in front, walk beside and walk behind approach as the girls challenge them- selves throughout the programme to emerge as leaders walking in front of their instructors in the final days at Kahunui.

Principal Justine Mahon says “Kahunui is a unique and very special part of what we offer at St Cuthbert’s to develop confident young women. The experience helps our girls become aware of just how resourceful they are, how they can achieve whatever they put their mind to, how they can feel the fear and do it anyway, and how to be at one with the environment.

“It expands friendship groups, creating strong bonds and helping girls realise they can confidently face life’s challenges.”

Every Year 10 student spends close to a month at Kahunui and we can say without exception that our girls love this facet of their education. Parents find their daughters returning home invigorated for the challenges ahead.

In Year 13 girls return to Kahunui for five days to re-visit their time, catch up on sustainability projects they tended to and welcome the next group of Year 10s.

To learn more about Kahunui please view our video at


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