Astley Nathan takes on the World

He hasn’t yet celebrated his 30th birthday but Dilworth old boy Astley Nathan has achieved more than many of us do in a lifetime.

He’s got a BA majoring in Māori Media (the first in his family to gain a university degree) and is a highly successful radio show host (carving out a name for himself as a DJ on Flava Nights, The Drive, and Flava Breakfast). Astley’s face is splashed across our TV screens in all manner of ads and promos, and this year he’s connecting with his Māori heritage as a full immersion student at Te Wānanga o Takiura.

It’s been a wild ride - with a few bumps along the way - but according to Astley he’s just getting warmed up.

“I think the best is yet to come. I’ve done the hard grind in the media industry and now I’m learning about my Māori side which is very important to me and my family. And what makes this year even more special is the fact that I’m doing the course with my mum,” says Astley who is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine and Tainui descent.

“I can see lots of potential to take lessons from both my media world and my Māori world and weave them together, culminating in something pretty amazing. My heart is pulling me towards starting my own media company and I’m super excited for what’s going to come in the next five years.”

But while his eyes are firmly fixed on the future, Astley is also extremely passionate about his past, and he believes that without the nine years he spent as a student at Dilworth, his life trajectory could look quite different.

“Dilworth helped me to build my foundations and it shaped me into the man I am today. The school allowed me to have a privileged upbringing, afforded me incredible opportunities, and instilled me with a strong sense of confidence about what I can achieve.

“I played every sport imaginable, including basketball, rugby, cricket and touch. I learnt the guitar, was in the choir, did kapa haka, and my passion for creativity was fuelled through inspiring subjects such as printmaking and photography. We had access to so many incredible things - we got given cameras for photography and all the tools to do our printmaking. The facilities were just awesome.”

Receiving a full-fees Significant Student Scholarship to pathway into tertiary studies at AUT was the icing on the cake.

“If I hadn’t received that scholarship there is no way I would have been able to go to university, I would have just gone straight into the workforce. I also received financial help for living costs from Dilworth, and they bought me a suit for job interviews! I absolutely loved my time at Dilworth because I got so many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.”

But not only did the school make a positive impact on Astley, it also brought big benefits to his whānau too.

His mum - renowned fashion designer Kiri Nathan - was just 19 when she had Astley, and she became a solo mum a couple of years later.

“Mum had to raise me by herself but because she was so young, she was still just figuring out who she was, and doing her thing. Dilworth helped us so much as  a family by taking away the financial pressure, allowing her to be her, and me to have an awesome education.”

In earlier years Kiri worked as a flight attendant for Ansett New Zealand but after winning Style Pasifika in 2008 her fashion career took off. In 2010 she launched her eponymous label with Astley’s step-dad, pounamu carver Jason Nathan. Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Demi Lovato have all worn Kiri Nathan designs and in 2020, Kiwi film producer Chelsea Winstanley took them to the red carpet at the Oscars.

“By enrolling me at Dilworth, mum had the reassurance that I would be ok and looked after while she was doing her thing. It was a win-win for both of us.”

There are invaluable lessons that are acquired at boarding school – lessons that help set students up not just in the short-term, but for their entire lives.

“Respect was a big one at Dilworth – having respect for your teachers, your elders, your housemasters and tutors. That was probably one of my biggest lessons. I also learnt how to deal with people and live with people. It’s not usual for a kid to grow up with a hundred other boys. It’s an experience that teaches you a lot about how people behave, what they need, and what they want.”

A house captain at the Junior Campus, and a prefect in Year 13, Astley honed his leadership skills, and unlocked his passion for media, gaining a strong sense of direction for tertiary studies and an exciting career.

“Media Studies was hands down my favourite subject at school and Dilworth definitely cemented my desire to forge a career in the industry.”

But most powerful of all, says Astley, was the comradeship.

“It’s 12 years since I graduated but my core circle of mates are still my brothers from Dilworth. Back then we had a buddy system for new students and when I was in Year 6  I was buddied up with a Year 5 boy. He is one of my best friends to this day – I still talk to him every night!

“That camaraderie was the very best part about Dilworth. The relationships I built with my brothers will stay with me forever – we have bonds that will never be broken and that’s what I appreciate the most.”

Astley Nathan has the world at his feet. But he is just one example of the many Dilworth boys who have gone on to create successful, meaningful and rewarding futures.

By weaving a secure framework of belonging, care, support and friendship into the lives of its students, Dilworth gives boys from all backgrounds the foundations to shine, and the power to soar.

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October 28, 2021