A legacy of Mana Wahine – Womens Leadership

  • Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Māori Development

A legacy of Mana Wahine – Womens Leadership

Māori Women’s Welfare League 66th National Conference – Opening Address

9.15 am, Thursday, 27 September



“Ka inoi, ka kai, ka mahi, ka moe, ka inoi anō”

Te Puea


“Ko te pae tawhiti, whaia kia tata, ko te pae tata, whakamaua kia tina.”


“Seek out distant horizons; cherish those you attain.”

It is very fitting that it is the chosen whakatauākī for the Māori Women’s Welfare League 66th National Conference.


Patron: Makau Ariki Atawhai; National President: Prue Kapua; National Vice President: Amiria Reriti; Regional Area Representatives; past Presidents; National Council members – wāhine, grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, rangatahi, and mokopuna representing the 162 Māori Women’s Welfare League branches.

We remember those who are no longer here and who contributed tirelessly to the MWWL kaupapa in Tairawhiti –  I think of a few who represent so many, Lady Lorna Ngata, Emarina Manuel, Maraea Te Kawa, Peggy Kaua, Julia Whaipooti, Mana Rangi and all of their groups and members from their time. And of course the favourite member from the rohe that never missed a conference – Parekura Horomia – I’m proud to be here today to support an organisation that has made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of whānau.

To the local Tairawhiti Executive – President: Jasmine Puia, and Area Representative: Tui Takarangi. The hardwork and effort put into organising this year’s conference. Tēnā kōrua.

Ngā iwi o Te Tairawhiti – the MWWL Conference hosts this year


Ngai Tamanuhiri;

Te Aitanga A Māhaki;

Te Aitanga a Hauiti

Ngāti Porou.


Te Iwi O Rakaipaaka

Ngati Kahungunu ki te Wairoa

Ngāti Pahauwera

Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana

And the whānau, hapū and iwi who are represented here today.

Thank you for inviting me to give the opening address for the Māori Women’s Welfare League 66th National Conference Tairawhiti 2018. The theme for the conference, Te Aroha, says it all.

This theme encapsulates the care and concern that we all feel and demonstrate to our whānau, our hapū, our iwi, our communities, our natural environment, and ourselves.

It encapsulates the sense of unity that the motto of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Tātou Tātou (togetherness) stands for. 

It’s also the name that our Prime Minister has chosen for her new baby – Neve Te Aroha who is currently taking centre stage at the UN right now.

Wahine Leadership

As change agents, community leaders, advocates and the engine room of our communities, I want to acknowledge what you represent to so many whānau.

The League has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the health, educational, employment and social life outcomes of Māori women and their whānau.

With the guidance and leadership of your president and executive team, the MWWL have impacted on the political discourse in so many ways, having:

  • made submisisons to the Child Poverty Reduction Bill (December 2017)
  • contributed to the purpose and function of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio (March 2018)
  • helped shape the Draft Terms of Reference of Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care (April 2018)
  • advocated and led thinking with Oranga Tamariki on what happens to our tamariki in care - participating in the Oranga Tamariki Care Standards 2018
  • participated in the Māori Expert hui on eliminating violence (May 2018)
  • led the challenge to the Ministry of Health’s decision reversal in respect of funding pēpi pods instead of wahakura, due to MWWL’s support and influence for an indigenous solution to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome / SIDS

I also think of the many Māori women who are leading and working tirelessly in other areas of society and at all levels.

Māori women such as Dr Charlotte Severn just appointed as Māori Trustee; Hinerangi Raumati now sitting on the Crown’s Tax Working Group; Dr Rawinia Higgins, Chair of Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Māori, and business woman Rachel Taulelei, Chief Executive of Kono, named Māori Woman Business Leader for 2018 in May of this year. And of course the long awaited and newly appointed coach of the Silver Ferns Noeline Taurua-Barnett.

Recognition of mana wahine is already clearly visible in some of our iwi authorities and we are beginning to see a step change in the way tribal matters are being shaped and led with people of the heart of decision-making.

For example, Waikato Tainui is chaired by Parekawhia McLean. And Ngāi Tahu Chair is Lisa Tumahai.  Both iwi also have Māori women as Chief Executives.

Marama Royal is the Chair of Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei and earlier this year Te Rūnanga- Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi appointed Lorraine Toki as its Chief Executive.

Locally, Ngai Tamanuhiri Iwi Trust has Robyn Rauna as Chief Executive and the Gisborne District Council has their Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher-Swann. Moera Brown chairs the Rongowhakaata Trust and co-chairs Te Rūnanga o Turanganui a Kiwa. There is the Deputy Chief Judge, Caren Fox, and former Tairawhiti District Health Board Chair, and current long standing chair of Whangarā Farm Partnership, Ingrid Collins.

Traci Houpapa leads the Federation of Māori Authorities and Kerensa Johnston is the CEO of Wakatū Incorporation.

My own Ministry, Te Puni Kōkiri, is led by Michelle Hippolite. And Mere Pohatu leads our regional team for Te Puni Kōkiri.

This quiet revolution is bringing change to our modern society where men and leadership have previously dominated. We have mistakenly seen the paepae as the only place of leadership but clearly without the kitchen nothing happens.

Change is slow… but it is happening and it is a fitting tribute in the 125 years of the suffrage movement to the early pioneers like Meri Te Tai Mangakahia and Kate Shepard who were pioneers of the struggle for womens rights.

The changes serve to remind us that the traditional values of Te Ao Māori always recognised the mana of wahine. Importantly this change in leadership is not defined by western feminist thinking but the values that have long underpinned our culture, histories and traditions, in Maniapoto this concept is referred to as Mana Whatuahuru – a set of values and norms derived from a sacred source.

We see this most clearly in the naming of hapū and whare tipuna after women, thereby reinforcing the importance of their role and place in traditional Māori society.

Our histories record the important leadership positions wahine held - spiritually, politically, militarily and socially.

Among them were powerful rangatira that resolved land issues, in many iwi signed the Treaty of Waitangi, fought the British in the Land Wars. Throughout the country our tupuna whaea are reflected in every facet of our society.

We stand here today, Māori women proud to take our place in the kitchen and the boardroom, as mentors and nurturers, CE’s and chairs, as mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers inheriting and creating a legacy of leadership.

But I want to urge us to think about what we must do to continue the legacy, far too often it is easy to cut each other down. Nothing in my experience happens by accident. We must foster, encourage and grow each other’s leadership potential and contribution. Failure to do so dooms our ability to contribute merely to playing in the sandpit.

We are destined for far greater service and contribution.

Wellbeing of Whānau

Not only do we bring a different perspective and world view to these important conversations about tribal/Māori development, political advocacy, community and whānau transformation, leadership and excellence. We seek out a wellbeing vision that puts our children and mokopuna at the centre to achieve intergenerational wellbeing.

This brings me to the Living Standards Framework which is an attempt by our Government to take a different approach to the way we prioritise our decisions and investments to address intergenerational outcomes. We realise we cannot continue to take the same approach – a new way is needed.

It is trying to look beyond GDP as a measure of our national wellbeing and a more holistic approach to wellbeing and prosperity.

The Living Standards Framework should represent the values and aspirations of our country.

But to be effective, this framework needs to incorporate ao Māori perspectives – not just for the benefit of Māori, but for the benefit of the nation.

It contributes to our uniqueness as indigenous peoples, and as a nation.

It should, in my view, be the living embodiment of what the Treaty of Waitangi envisaged for all citizens, and Māori as indigenous peoples in particular.

The indigenous component of the framework has real potential to shift the type of conversation that policy makers can lead towards a long-term vision, prioritising investment, committing to integrated solutions and focusing on outcomes that improve wellbeing and share prosperity.

Embedding te ao Māori perspectives within the Living Standards Framework, alongside other changes to legislation, helps to create a new environment.

By taking an approach that factors in Māori perspectives of wellbeing which sit beyond an economic measure, it will mean we can put a ‘true value’ on things like language, culture, identity, belonging, connectedness as well as an emphasis on whānau or the collective rather than the individual.

This convergence of thinking means government agencies will need to change its approach and stop looking for singular solutions to the most complex challenges.

Lets take for example, Māori Housing. We know through the evaluation of the Māori Housing Network that grants for housing repairs contributes to:

  • restored pride and self-confidence: whānau (including kaumātua) had previously been isolated because they were too embarrassed to have people visit or come to stay given the state of their homes.
  • stronger connections to whakapapa, whānau and whenua: whānau and rōpū talked about how connections to whenua were enhanced by the repairs, enabling whānau to stay in their homes, and feel safe opening their homes to extended whānau.
  • improved physical and mental health in whānau: 94% of whānau and rōpū interviewed agreed housing repairs had led to improved health. They reported fewer visits to doctors, less use of daily asthma medication, feeling more positive, and feeling motivated to be more active and start exercising. Specific comments mentioned the relief from the daily worry and stress of trying to repair the home themselves.
  • improved tamariki participation in learning. Whānau reported children had less time off school because homes were warmer, drier and healthier (61% agreed repairs had improved school attendance).

A local example is the Te Hauora O Turanganui A Kiwa remedial repairs project funded through the Māori Housing Network.

The cost to the Health System per night, depending on type of bed use on average is $500-$650; and for an intensive care unit bed is $1,200-$1,400.

This Māori Housing Network project targeted Kaumātua living both urban and rural, with chronic health conditions, and who were regular occupiers of hospital beds during the winter seasons.

Over the course of 9 months, this project repaired 18 homes.

I know that these 18 Kaumātua and their whānau are warmer, healthier, more confident and happier this winter.

As the Minister for Māori Development, it is pleasing to hear and see the Māori Housing Network achieving such positive impacts for whānau.

I am under no illusion however, that there is still more work to be done to ensure our whānau and hāpori Māori can thrive.

The approach we will look to take in the Māori Development space will get back to the basics.

We will focus on building the capability of whānau and our communities, we will broker with whomever we need to, in order to create longlasting solutions to depravation and hardship from the bottom up.

If its whānau enterprise or land development, community or iwi partnerships, we will take an investment, co-design approach.

Our legacy of leadership has been founded on a model of leadership and self-reliance.

Concluding Remarks

The remits cover a range of important issues from breastfeeding, SUDI, smoking, repatriation, te reo and many more. Our Government is looking to engage with the League in so many ways.

That is the true legacy of leadership and influence.

In finishing, referring back to wahine leadership, I would like to leave you with another familiar whakataukī: "He wahine, he whenua, e ngaro ai te tangata." It is often interpreted as meaning "by women and land men are lost.”

Rangimarie Rose Pere reminds us that it also refers to the essential nourishing roles that women and land fulfil, without which humanity would be lost. We are the essential element.

There’s a new generation coming through. They’re ready, we’re ready. A place waits for you at the leadership table, in our homes, our schools, our marae, our communities, our councils and the hallowed halls of Parliament.

Our leadership contribution has been designated by our first President Dame Whina Cooper when she said “Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa”.

Our service commitment was set by our first Patron Te Puea Herangi when she said “Mahia te mahi hei painga mo te iwi”.

No reira e ngā Wahine Māori Toko i te Ora whaia te pae tawhiti kia tata, kia whakamaua kia tina – Haumie, hui e, taiki e!

Pai Marire