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  • Guest Writer

I a te rā, i a te rā

On the daily,

I’m constantly having to justify

the value and investment in our culture.

I’m asked to fit a template not suited to us,

not created with us or for us.

Deadlines nearing, pressure rising

with a kupu here and there, auē!

On the daily,

I’m asked to write in English

to explain the meaning of our culture.

I’m asked to help cultur-ify a report.

I’m expected to front cultural hui.

I’m begged to translate.

Our culture is always on call.

On the daily,

I’m told I’m too passionate,

I need to step out of my feelings

and to pull back on my activist views.

They try to keep me quiet

but my ancestors won’t let me.

This voice will be heard.

On the daily,

I share my cultural intelligence

with those willing to listen

and those that have no idea.

I challenge the system to change.

I challenge the people to think of the people,

not just the timelines or outputs.

On the daily,

I seek equity and justice.

My advice is more than just ticking the box.

Our culture is more than a ‘whakatau’.

Our identity, language and culture

are the foundation to all our solutions.

Our culture is our strength, our value add.

On the daily,

My cultural hat is unremovable.

My whakapapa runs strong.

I will fight for the people,

be the rangatira our tamariki need us to be

and ensure their daily is better than mine.

We are the change agents of now.

Ia te rā, ia te rā

Tūrou Hawaiki!

- Kara Nepe-Apatu, Chair Te Rau Hihiri

Our ancestors dreamt of us—the leaders of today and tomorrow. They paved the way for us, and now it's our turn to carry the torch forward. From knowing our values to backing our opinions, from hard work to being part of a broader network, these are all integral to working in government—be it at the central or local level. But what sets us apart, ingrained in our DNA, is our embodiment of culture, creativity, calibre, and connection.

Kara Nepe-Apatu, Chair of Te Rau Hihiri, shares a kōrero she had before entering the public service, echoing the sentiments of Tariana Turia, affectionately known as Nanny Tari. She emphasises the importance of recognizing our value and purpose in every room we enter. According to Nanny Tari, we are chosen for the unique skills and perspectives we bring, and it is our duty to make them count. She urges us to be tactical, to learn the language and skills of our environments, and to use them to elevate our voices and enhance our impact.

As uri working in government, Māori hold a unique position—a position of influence and advocacy. They serve as bridges between government structures and community aspirations, leveraging their insights to drive positive change. In doing so, they honour the spirit of partnership outlined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, fostering collaboration and mutual respect in all their endeavours.

Our ancestors envisioned a future where Māori leadership thrives—a future where Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not just a document, but a living covenant guiding our actions. Today, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, tasked with carrying their legacy forward. Let us embrace this responsibility with pride, drawing strength from our whakapapa and forging a path of excellence for future generations.

In this pursuit, the words of Nanny Tari resonate deeply—to never doubt our worth, but instead, to embrace our purpose and make it count. Together, we can honour the spirit of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, empower Māori leadership, and create a future where excellence knows no bounds.

Our part of this legacy has only really just begun

We know that we need to shift the dial

We need to lead the design of policy and operations

Be at the table making decisions

Infiltrating and dominating

The time is now!

We have to do this together

We can enable our people

Be empathetic and aware

Come with solutions and put in some real effort.

If not now, when?

If not us, who?

If not this, what?

We can do it

Te mana o te takitini!

Tēnā koutou katoa!

Te Rau Hihiri is a charitable trust passionate about Māori succeeding as Māori. Through their work, they strive to create pathways for Māori working in and with the public service to thrive, guided by the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Te Rau Hihiri, with support from mana whenua Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Toa Rangatira, are hosting He Māori Ahau, an event designed to uplift and support Māori working in and with the public service ensuring kaimahi Māori can perform in their respective roles while, at the same time, safely pursuing mana motuhake. 

26 June at Tākina. Find out more and purchase your ticket at


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