Taua Roimata Kirikiri (Ngāti Rākaipāka [Ngāti Kahungunu], Ngāti Konohi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāi Tahu whānui) is TEU’s new Taua (Ngāi Tahu dialect for Kuia). Here, Taua Roimata shares what experience and knowledge she brings with her and how she wants to build on the mahi of those that have come before her.

Ngā mihi ki a koutou katoa. Let me take the opportunity this Matariki to introduce myself to my TEU whānau. I was raised in Nuhaka with my maternal grandmother, Ka Nēpia. Te reo Māori was the language of our home and English at school. Our school was one of the last Māori schools in Aotearoa and there was also a public school with about 20 Pākehā pupils. In 1959 I went to Queen Victoria School for Māori Girls in Auckland.

I attended Auckland Teachers Training College for one year and then began my teaching career at Hillary College in Ōtara where I was responsible for setting up te reo Māori in the school. Hillary College was one of the few secondary schools where te reo Māori was offered to all pupils at that time. All pupils spent their first two years learning te reo Māori, the classes were phenomenally successful and large numbers continued to sit te reo Māori for school certificate.

I was married in 1968 to Rauru Kirikiri and have three sons, Tama, Kahurangi and Peta, daughters-in-law, Tina and Olivia, and five mokopuna.

We moved to Wellington when Rauru joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I delivered extension courses in te reo and tikanga Māori at Victoria University of Wellington for a year and then was posted to Washington DC for 4 years with two pre-schoolers.

Over the next 14 years our whānau lived in Washington DC, Fiji and London. In between these postings I taught te reo Māori at the Wellington Kuratini alongside Huirangi Waikerepuru and Te Ariki Mei. Helping adults to learn about themselves and begin their reo journeys was the most rewarding time for me. During that time I assisted Aunty Kā Daniels to develop her te reo Māori curriculum when she established the first Māori language classes at Christchurch Polytechnic.

Other positions over time included: Kaiako te reo Māori, Senior Policy Analyst, The Ministry of Education, State Services Commission, Kaiwhakahaere Māori, The Early Childhood Development Unit, Kaiwhakahaere, Special Education Service, and Pouherenga Māori for Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa. I am currently an Alternate for Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie for The Crown Forest Rental Trust, Advisory Trustee for our whānau kiwifruit orchard, Board member for Taki Rua Productions, and was chairperson for Te Kāhui Kōhanga Reo 2019-2020.

Since retiring in 2014, being a kuia tautoko at the kōhanga with my mokopuna has been the most rewarding time of my life. Being able to converse with each other in te reo Māori is wonderful and is food for one’s soul.

I am honoured to hold this special role of TEU Kaumātua. I will work hard to uphold the mana of Whaea Kāterina Daniels, Koro Huirangi Waikerepuru and Whaea Mere Broughton.

E kore e wareware i a rātou. Nā rātou i whakatō i ngā tohutohu kia tika ai te hoe o te waka nei a TEU. I know our TEU Kaumātua who have passed were passionate and shared their knowledge and life experience relating to mātauranga Māori and mana Māori.  I am committed to ensuring that my union knowledge is strong.

Today Matariki or Puanga has taken on new dimensions of celebration of our tikanga and te reo Māori, te wairua Māori, te kōrero i te reo, ahakoa ki whea, ahakoa ki a wai.

In my upbringing we were guided by the Māori calendar which for as long as I could remember was pinned on the wall beside our kitchen table. Conversations around planting kūmara, other kai, going fishing, collecting kiekie happened in that space. In the summer we helped our nanny prepare harakeke to make piupiu or kete and dry pipi ready for the winter.

The revival of knowledge about Matariki or Puanga has helped fill those spaces in my knowledge around Mātauranga Māori between what I learnt as a child, and my understanding today.

This Matariki I will go in the early morning with my mokopuna to see if we spot the stars and I will be attending local celebrations in Wellington.