Māori Women's Welfare League (MWML)

67th National Conference 2019

I would really like to acknowledge Bishop Waitohiariki Quayle on her recent ordination as the first Anglican Māori Woman Bishop, first Indigenous Woman Bishop. He wāhine hūmārie.

  • Kotahi te kōhao o te ngira e kuhuna ai te miro ma, te miro pango, te miro whero. I muri, kia mau ki te whakapono, kia mau ki te aroha, ki te ture. Hei aha te aha, hei aha te aha. After I am gone, hold fast to faith; hold fast to love; hold fast to law. Nothing else matters now – nothing. 
  • Whenever we gather together as tangata whenua, it is always important to reflect and remember. Often our thoughts return to our tūpuna, those who established the spiritual and cultural frameworks of our world, and who mapped out our peoples' course through life. 
  • Some days, that challenge seems greater than at other times. That is true of any journey through life. But as the tongikura of Pōtatau reminds us of the importance; to hold fast to faith; to hold fast to love; to hold fast to law – because as we know nothing else matters. 
  • Firstly I want to thank Prue Kapua, your president for the invitation to come to the 67th Māori Women’s National Conference which has seen many of you travel the motu to gather and discuss important issues not only as mana wāhine, but also for whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisation figures. 
  • Today I would like to refer back to three key themes of faith, love and law that I believe resonates with the tradition of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, but also this conference and my aspirations for the whānau wellbeing for our people across the motu. 


  • As our tūpuna would say: 'Kaua ma te waewae tutuki e hokia, engari ma te upoko pakaru'. We will not let a stubbed toe turn us back - only a fractured skull. And while this can talk to our stubbornness, I liken this to our faith. 
  • A women of note who is someone that I consider closely to be a person of faith is Te Puea Hērangi. Ka mahi au, ka inoi au, ka moe au, ka mahi anō.  I work, I pray, I sleep, and then I work again. 
  • Te Puea Hērangi was born at Whatiwhatihoe and into the family of the Māori aristocracy, her mother was Tiahuia, daughter of Tawhiao Te Wherowhero of Ngāti Māhuta, the second Māori King, and his senior wife, Hera.  
  • Her father was Te Tahuna Hērangi, son of William Searancke, an English surveyor, and Hariata Rangitaupa of Ngāti Ngawaero hapū of Ngāti Maniapoto.  
  • As a leader of perseverance and courage – she was a woman who would do things against the odds. Her first test as a leader in 1911. Mahuta had decided to approve Maui Pōmare as parliamentary candidate for Western Māori in place of Henare Kaihau, previously the nominee of the Kīngitanga. Te Puea accompanied Pōmare around the villages of the lower Waikato; her support ensured his election. 
  • Te Puea was guided all her life by tongikura of Tawhiao; more than anyone else. During the war she drew on his words which would encourage Waikato to never take up arms after he had finally made his peace with the Crown in 1881.  
  • She stood firm with those men who did not wish to fight a war that was not theirs, on behalf of a government that had dispossessed and scattered their people. But the government was impatient with what it saw as defiance and disloyalty, and compounded Tainui feelings of injustice by conscripting Māori only from the Waikato–Maniapoto district. 
  • The revival of the Pai Mārire faith, brought to Waikato from Taranaki by Tawhiao, helped to strengthen the people. Te Puea expressed her own opposition to conscription in especially composed waiata such as 'E huri raa koe', 'Kaati nei e te iwi te kumekume roa' and 'Ngaa raa o Hune ka ara te pakanga', and gathered together the men liable for conscription at Te Paina (the pa she had rebuilt at Mangatāwhiri) to support them.  
  • They were balloted in groups in 1918, then arrested and taken to Narrow Neck training camp at Auckland, where they were subjected to severe military punishments if they refused to wear uniform. Te Puea would travel north and sit outside where the men could see her from time to time; it gave them much-needed encouragement. 
  • These were just some of the challenges she faced which I no doubt would have tested her faith. But it was because of her faith, her dedication, her resolution to ensure the right outcome for her people that she will always be remembered, it is a legacy that I will always strive to pursue. 
  • Over the past weeks I have seen many of our district health boards and regional and local council’s candidates campaigning – so I would like to have faith that many of our wāhine who are here today have either stood for Councils in your rohe, or have resolved to exercise your democratic right to vote for the candidates who best represent you and your views for the local bodies. 


  • He wahine hūmārie, he wahine manawanui, he wahine aroha. Dr Irihapeti Ramsden, an astute mind and vibrant personality.  
  • As a former member of the Ngā Wāhine Toko I te Ora movement I will take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to her as a Ngāti Irakehu and Rangitāne leader, mother, sister and cousin who is loved by many. 
  • In her lifetime, Irihapeti achieved so much and I am sure she wanted to achieve much, much more. As an anthropologist, a nurse, a publisher and an educator, Irihapeti did many good deeds, but it was her aroha for her own culture and people that had a huge impact on others viewed Māori especially from a health perspective. 
  • She saw huge potential in our people, and she was passionate about realising it. Irihapeti was an outstanding thinker on cultural issues and Treaty relationships. Te Kawa Whakaruruhau, the cultural safety programme she helped to establish as part of the Nursing Council's programme of training, is an expression of her vision. 
  • Te Kawa Whakaruruhau taught nursing students to recognise that many of the things they took for granted about their attitudes and practice are determined by culture. Awareness of their own culture empowers nurses to care better for patients from different cultures. 
  • Te Kawa Whakaruruhau became a lightning rod for huge public controversy over Treaty issues and cultural awareness in 1995.  
  • Irihapeti showed tremendous strength in promoting and defending the programme, and in completing her PhD thesis on Cultural Safety and Nursing Practice in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu, even while she was in the final stages of living amongst us all. 
  • In her PhD thesis, Irihapeti described how difficult it can be to bring about social change through education - and I quote:

In the neo-colonial environment this requires a profound understanding of the history and social function of racism and the colonial process. It also requires a critical analysis of existing social, political, and cultural structures and the physical, mental, spiritual and social outcomes for people who are different. It is a given that this type of knowledge is not taught in a general educational pedagogy which is normally about maintaining the status quo which underpins a conservative economic system based on individual success. This usually means that most people have little understanding of Treaty of Waitangi issues and New Zealand history. It is consequently very difficult to move the issues of cultural safety in relation to Māori health forward since the basis of this work lies in establishing an understanding of national and local issues and their impact on health. (Cultural Safety Kawa Whakaruruhau, Irihapeti Ramsden, Chapter 11, Conclusion).

  • I am relieved however that 24 years later that there has been progress made when we talk about hauora and wellbeing which is very much a sign of our development as a nation and a testament foremost to work of people like Irihapeti who have left a legacy for us to follow and progress. 


  • From Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe, Dame Georgina Te Heuheu is another Māori woman of note as the first ever Māori female Lawyer. 
  • Graduating from Victoria University in 1971 – she was the first female to do so. The year after she became the first Māori woman admitted to the High Court as a barrister and solicitor. 
  • She practiced law in both Wellington and Rotorua opening her own practice, at a time where this was a male-dominated arena. 
  • If this wasn’t impressive enough, before entering Parliament she was a Member of the Waitangi Tribunal for ten years, a Director of the Māori Development Corporation, the Midland Regional Health Authority, and Te Papa, and a Member of the Council of the University of Waikato.  
  • She has served five terms as a Member of Parliament from 1996 till 2011 and held the portfolios for Courts, Pacific Island Affairs, Disarmament and Arms Control, and Women’s Affairs.  
  • She was Associate Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Health and Māori Affairs, with delegated responsibility for Māori Broadcasting. She chaired the Māori Affairs Committee, was a member of the Regulations Review Committee, and Deputy Chair of Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee and the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and is the current chair of Māori Television, a position held since 2012. 
  • Despite being a major agent of change for Māori Development, very little is acknowledged about her impact of ensuring women – especially Māori were at the decision-making table. She is a humble woman of loyalty and has an unwavering commitment to Māori.


  • If there are key themes that come out from the narratives of these three women of faith; love; and law, it would be around having a vision. A vision is only as good as the work that is put in. So being deliberate and intentional in your mahi – regardless of what your mahi is – is imperative.
  • My vision for whānau wellbeing is based in cultural, social, economic, political and environmental outcomes that achieves whānau taurikura. At the heart of this is working at a level where whānau and communities across the motu are empowered to identify and participate in achieving their own wellbeing needs.
  • By taking an approach that empowers whānau to determine their own success and are actively a part of the process, is key to achieving whānau taurikura – thriving whānau - and key to ensuring that Te Ao Māori is culturally competent and safe; socially thriving; environmentally sound; and is economically sustainable.
  • Provincial New Zealand is the heartland of Aotearoa, and home to some of our most creative and innovative people. Much of New Zealand’s economy rests on the successes of the regions, with tourism, forestry and the primary industries all strong contributors to New Zealand’s export economy.
  • For Māori, economic sustainability is about future-proofing ourselves in a deliberate and intentional way. Ensuring the necessary investments now will allow us to grow the future economic wellbeing of whānau – ensuring collective growth.
  • “He kai kei aku ringa,” is a well-known whakataukī and is also the name for the Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership. It literally means providing food by one’s own hands and has become a metaphor for the resilience and economic self-determination of Māori.
  • The Māori economy and asset base has grown exponentially off the back of the Treaty Settlements, which have provided an economic base for our people.
  • We understand that today, the Māori economy is valued at around $50 billion and represents six per cent of New Zealand’s total asset base.
  • We are encouraged by the fact that is even said to be growing faster than the New Zealand economy, there is potential however to lift and increase this even further.
  • While my focus, as Minister for Māori Development, is to lead the charge for economic inclusion for Māori and particularly for Māori women, I believe that through forums such as today’s we can all benefit. Economic success for Māori is economic success for all of New Zealand.
  • I have relayed my expectations to Te Puni Kōkiri to ensure that it is a national priority to support ‘whānau enterprise’, which adopts a whānau-centric approach to lifting enterprise.
  • Māori enterprises come in all shapes and sizes. Some are new and small, there are others who have been in the game longer and are contemplating their next steps.
  • Regardless of where our Māori businesses are, we are committed to providing support that is tailored to their needs.
  • Three billion dollars has been allocated over a three-year term to invest in regional economic development through the MBIE led, cross-agency supported Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
  • This seeks to ensure that people living all over New Zealand can reach their full potential by helping build a regional economy that is sustainable, inclusive and productive. The PGF is not specifically targeted at Māori development but aims to lift Māori as a key policy objective.
  • Te Puni Kōkiri also administers the Māori Development Fund, which aims to strengthen capability and governance and support specific development initiatives by investing alongside Māori stakeholders. This fund has operated in various forms for over a decade with an annual budget of approximately NZ$18 million at present.
  • More specifically Te Puni Kōkiri also supports the Māori Women’s Development Incorporation. As you all know MWDI is a unique, indigenous financial institution formed by Māori women, controlled, managed and operated by Māori women, for the economic development of Māori Women and their whānau.
  • These are all good mechanisms for a wellbeing blueprint for our people to prosper and is part of my vision for whānau taurikura and we are moving towards achieving this. 


  • However one challenge that I leave for all the mana wāhine here in this room is to aspire to uphold and continue the legacy that has been sustained for the past 67 years. 
  • Continue to support initiatives that ensure young ones are exposed to thought-leadership. Ngā Pū Kōrero is an initiative that I know about and I understand there are more planned. I encourage you to look at how rangatahi are engaged at each interface to encourage and lift participation. 
  • Māori women are women of influence and we can help each other to succeed. Rangatahi need initiatives and support networks to lean into and leverage on and we need to support other Māori women to realise their potential.
  • It is often all too easy for people to cut each other down and I believe as mana wahine, we must foster, encourage and grow each other’s potential as doctors, as health professionals, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, as lawyers, as businesswomen, as researchers, as politicians, as kuia, as rūruhi, as kai-karanga,  as thought-leaders, and as wahine Māori.
  • The likes of Kataraina O’Brien, Meagan Joe, Linda Grennell, Katerina Bennett, Jacqui Te Kani, Druis Barrett, Areta Koopu, Aroha Reriti-Crofts, Dame June Mariu, Dame Georgina Kirby, Marae Te Kawa, Violet Te Pou, Dr Erihapeti Murchie-Rehu, Dame Mira Szászy, Hine Potaka, Miria Karauria, Ruiha Sage, Maata Hirini, Miria Logan, Dame Whina Cooper, Te Arikinui Te Atairangikāhu, Te Puea Herangi, Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan Irihapeti Ramsden.
  • One Māori woman leader that I want to acknowledge is one your very own kuia – Kuini Te Tau, who was the first Treasurer for the MWWL in 1951. Kuini was one of the first women welfare officers appointed under the Māori Social and Economic Advancement Act 1945 with responsibility for Wellington and Wairarapa. Her work included encouraging Māori women to form branches of the Women’s Health League. In 1950 – 1951 working under the controller of Māori Welfare, Rangi Royal, Kuini was responsible for the formation of 10 branches in Wairarapa. In 1951, with her encouragement, these groups became branches of newly formed MWWL, of which Kuini was a founding member and treasurer. Through this organisation she helped teach Māori mothers domestic work, child rearing, gardening and other self-help skills when many were transitioning from papakāinga to newly built state homes at the time. Kuini Te Tau passed away in 1977 at the age of 98 years old.
  • There are many more who are examples of Māori women who have influenced our nation.  
  • Sustainability is important as we look towards to the future and a legacy like the Māori Women’s Welfare League is one that we should continue to support and advocate for.
  • Kua takoto te mānuka, mā wai e kawe ake? 
  • Thank you once again for the invitation to speak at this national conference and I wish you safe travels as you return to your respective destinations. 
  • I look forward to seeing you as I travel across the motu. 
  • He hono tangata e kore e motu; ka pa he taura waka e motu. Unlike a canoe rope, a human bond cannot be severed. 
  • Paimārire.