Nukutere College

Nukutere College
Avarua, Rarotonga
Cook Islands
Coordinates 21°12′29″S 159°46′51″W / 21.2081°S 159.7809°W / -21.2081; -159.7809Coordinates: 21°12′29″S 159°46′51″W / 21.2081°S 159.7809°W / -21.2081; -159.7809
Type Catholic co-educational secondary school
Established 1975; 41 years ago
Founder Bishop John Rodgers SM
Principal Mr George Rasmussen, PO Box 76, Rarotonga
Grades Year 7 - 11
Affiliations Roman Catholic, Christian Brothers

Nukutere College is a Roman Catholic secondary school located in Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. It is the country’s only Roman Catholic secondary school and has an important educational role across the archipelago.[1] "Nukutere" means "people on a journey", a reference to the pilgrim Church in the South Pacific context.[2]


The college was opened in 1975 by Bishop John Rodgers SM, Bishop of Rarotonga. It was first staffed by Father Peter Salamonsen SM and Sister Berenice Stevens RSM. The Christian Brothers provided staff for the school from the beginning of the 1976 school year until the end of 2009. Brother Terence Vitus "Terry" McErlane became the second headmaster. Brothers Simon Coughlan and Joseph McRae were the other members of that first Christian Brothers community. For some years Sister Elizabeth Browne-Russell (SJC), a sister of St Joseph of Cluny, served as deputy principal.[3]

From its beginnings, the school's financial position was somewhat parlous especially after it became necessary to employ lay teachers starting in the 1980s. In 2000 the Cook Islands' Government began to pay 75% of teachers' salaries and running costs in all private and church schools. At the same time the schools' principal, Brother Norman Gillies established a charitable trust to ensure a regular supplementary income for future maintenance and development.[4] The Silver Jubilee of the College and the presence of the Christian Brothers was marked in 2000.[4] In 2005, the school had a roll of 190.[5]

On 20 February 2006 part of the school was destroyed by fire. Later that year the block was rebuilt with funds supplied by the New Zealand Government through the Cook Islands Investment Commission (CIIC).[6] The new block was designed by an Auckland architecture firm, Architectus.

Christian Brothers

The Christian Brothers ceased to be on the staff of the college at the end of 2009.[7] More than 20 Christian Brothers served at Nukutere College (1975–2009).[8] Among them were: Br Simon Germaine Coughlan, Br Andrew Dawani, Br Anthony Eugenio Gherardi, Br Norman Campion Gillies, Br Paul Kikisi, Br Terence Vitus McErlane, Br Joseph De Porres McRae, Br John Didicus O'Neill, Br Francis William Perkins, Br John Paschal Prendergast, Br Ignacy John Rubisz, Br Michael Benignus Scanlan, Br Benjamin Everard Ryan and Br Lawrence Hubert Wilkes. The Christian Brothers Congregation in New Zealand supported the college and the brothers financially so the new school could develop. Several brothers did extra work outside the school to assist the local community. Brother Anthony Gherardi is remembered for promoting the sport of volleyball on Rarotonga and Brother John O'Neill spent several years as the Catholic prison chaplain. Brother Gherardi (died 1998, aged 60) and Brother Ignacy Rubisz (died 23 October 2005, aged 56), died while stationed at the college and are buried in the Old Cathedral Cemetery, Avarua, adjacent to the grounds of Nukutere College.[8]

Nukutere College today

Students come mainly from Rarotonga, but provision is made for those from outer islands (as well as some from French Polynesia) to stay with 'guardians'.[9] As at 2010, Nukutere College and all other private and church schools in the Cook Islands receive 100% of the equivalent allocation of funds to which they are entitled as a government school from the national budget. All government, private and church schools are required to be open to both educational and financial audit.[10] The college generally has a roll of 170-200 pupils and a staff of 13.[11][12] There is a Government-funded Special Needs unit (opened in 2003) at the college, the only such unit in Rarotonga.

In May 2011, a college shrine in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (containing the icon that was in the former chapel of the Christian Brothers) and a plaque honouring all the Brothers who taught at Nukutere College were unveiled on the wall of the new school building, overlooking the college playing field. The refurnished, restocked and computerized school library, named the Edmund Rice Library, was reopened in July 2011.[13] On Sunday 20 October 2013, a deliberately-lit fire destroyed a classroom block representing two-thirds of the college's teaching space. The block had been rebuilt after the 2006 fire. The director of Religious studies, Sister Luisi, lost all the teaching resources she had built up. The college was reopened in time for senior students to prepare for their NCEA exams in the second week in November. An emergency appeal for funds to rebuild the school was launched.[14][15]


Notable alumni


  1. Media Release, "Help rebuild Cook Islands college", Catholic Missions: The work of the Pontifical Mission Societies, 21 March 2006. (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  2. Graeme Donaldson, To All Parts of the Kingdom, Christian Brothers in New Zealand 1876-2001, New Zealand Christian Brothers Province, 2001, p. 20
  3. Graeme Donaldson, pp. 20-21; Brother V. Hawley cfc, "Christian Brothers' Mission in the Cook Islands", Our Life, May 2007, p. 36: .
  4. 1 2 Graeme Donaldson, p. 21
  5. "Catholic Schools' supplement" (PDF). June 2005.
  6. "NEWS update". Edmund Rice Network. April 2006.
  7. "Churchnews: Christian Brothers departing Rarotonga", Cook Islands News, 19 August 2009 (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  8. 1 2 "Churchnews: Nukutere's founding fathers finishing soon", Cook Islands News, 19 August 2009 (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  9. Greame Donaldson, p. 20
  10. Cook Islands Ministry of Education Statistics Report 2010, p. 4 (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  11. Cook Islands Ministry of Education Statistics Report 2010, pp. 21-22 (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  12. Nukutere College Cook Islands Ministry of Education (retrieved 17 February 2011)
  13. Brother John O'Neill cfc, "Rarotonga, New Zealand: In 2009 the Brothers left Rarotonga after 34 years", Edmund Rice Network Oceania (retrieved 24 August 2011)
  14. Phil Cody and Cecily McNeill, "Rarotongan school again destroyed by fire", Wel-Com, November 2013, Issue 311, p. 1. (Retrieved 20 November 2013)
  15. 1 2 Fire destroys two Cook Island schools, TVNZ news, 22 October 2013 (Retrieved 12 February 2014)
  16. In July 2006, Br Ryan was honoured as he celebrated 70 years as a Christian Brother at a Mass celebrated by Bishop O'Connell in St Joseph's Cathedral, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The local newspaper reported that, including his time as principal, Brother Ben had taught for 22 years at the school; Brother Ryan finally left Rarotonga in March, 2008 and died on 30 July 2008 at morning Mass in Christchurch, New Zealand, aged 88"Br Ben Ryan". Edmund Rice Oceania. 5 July 2006.; "Please Pray for the Following Deceased Members of the Christian brothers Who Died in 2008" Christian Brothers Leadership website: .
  17. information on principals from: Graeme Donaldson, pp. 20-21
  18. Winton Brian Pickering Profile at Cook Islands Parliament.


  • Graeme Donaldson, To All Parts of the Kingdom, Christian Brothers in New Zealand 1876-2001, New Zealand Christian Brothers Province, 2001
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