Māori Women's Welfare League

The Māori Women’s Welfare League or Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko I te Ora is a New Zealand welfare organisation focusing on Māori women and children. It held its first conference in Wellington in September 1951.

The League's official aims are "To promote fellowship and understanding between Māori and European women and to cooperate with other women's organizations, Departments of State, and local bodies for the furtherance of these objects."[1]

History and accomplishmentsEdit

The formation of the League was a milestone in Māori culture. Through the organization, women were able to represent themselves in the New Zealand government for the first time. Formed in 1951 in Wellington, following the mass movement of Māori from rural to urban New Zealand, the league's original goal was to preserve Māori culture through their native arts and crafts while also promoting fellowship and cooperation among various women’s organizations. The league's formation was a direct result of the 1945 Māori Social and Economic Advancement Act.[2][3][4][5] The mostly male members of the committee for social and economic advancement recognized the under-representation of women in government and created the Women's Welfare League to address this issue. Dame Whina Cooper was elected foundation president. Following its establishment, the League grew rapidly, with branches were established throughout New Zealand. Within its first 14 years of existence, membership had risen to approximately 3,000 members in branches across the country.[citation needed]

The League became heavily involved in housing, health, and education, focusing on families and healthy lifestyles in addition to women's issues. When founded, the League had 187 branches;[6] by 1956 it had 300 branches, 88 district councils and over 4000 members. As president, Dame Whina Cooper became the highest profile Māori woman in New Zealand. Cooper, however, was acting in consultation with the League's executive less and less, and in 1957 she was persuaded to step aside as President.[citation needed] The League's annual conference bestowed her the title "Te Whaea o te Motu" (Mother of the Nation) in 1958. In the early days of the organization the priority was to raise the levels of poverty for the community and replace them with adequate public housing. In the 1960s, the women's league developed an afterschool homework program and established Māori language schools.[7] By the 1980s because of this type of action the organization was able to persuade the government into making te reo Māori part of the country's official languages.[7]

Māori Women's Development IncorporatedEdit

In 1987 the League, under the leadership of Georgina Kirby, established the Māori Women's Development Inc (MWDI), a specialist lender to encourage innovation and business among Māori. The fund lends to women and their whanau, and is run and governed by women.[7][8]

Figures within the LeagueEdit

Some of the people with the League include:[9]



Dame Whina Cooper in 1975
  • Dame Whina Cooper, ONZ, DBE, JP, President 1951-1957 (founding president)
  • Miria Logan, MBE President 1957-1960
  • Maata Hirini, MBE ME Foundation President 1960-1963
  • Ruiha Sage, JP President 1964-1968
  • Miria Karauria, MBE President 1968-1971
  • Hine Potaka, OBE Dominion President 1971-1973
  • Dame Miraka Szaszy DBE, JP President 1973-1977
  • Dr Erihapeti Murchie-Rehu CNZM, QSO, JP, President 1977-1980
  • Violet Pou, CBE, President 1980-1983
  • Maraea Te Kawa. QSM, JP President 1983
  • Dame Georgina Kirby. DBE, QSO, JP President 1983-1987; MWDI Trustee[8]
  • June Mariu QSM, JP, President 1987-1990; MWDI Trustee[8][11]
  • Aroha Reriti-Crofts, CBE, JP, President 1990-1993; MWDI Trustee[8]
  • Areta Koopu CBE President 1993-1996; MWDI Trustee[8]
  • Druis Barrett CNZM President 1996-1999; MWD ITrustee[8]
  • Jacqui Te Kani CNZM President 1999-2002; Later General Manager for The Maori Women's Welfare League (died in office in 2012);[12] MWDI Trustee[8]
  • Kitty Bennett MNZM President; MWDI Trustee
  • Linda Grennell President; MWDI Trustee
  • Meagan Joe 2008-2011 (died in office);[12][13] MWDI Trustee[8]
  • Kataraina O'Brien President [14] 2011–present

Life MembersEdit

Recent developmentsEdit

The organization's recent focus has been on inspiring Māori women to consider the more non-traditional areas of work. The Modern Apprenticeship Program was designed to promote cross-fertilization within the traditional male and female roles. While it was once important to preserve the old Māori ways of life, leaders within the league today see more benefits in a transition. By combining women and men in the workforce the League hopes to close the pay gap.[citation needed] Almost 70% of women's work is unpaid compared to 40% of male's work. Another recent initiative has been to set housing as one of New Zealand's priorities.[citation needed]

The organization continues to have an annual conference and is heavily involved in social issues within New Zealand, especially relating to Māori health and education. Today, the league does more than give women a voice in government; it is responsible for immunization campaigns for babies and teaching young mothers about gardening and growing their own food. The league also seeks to provide health centres and nursing units for the community.[19] The League has become an organization which focuses less on women and more on family wellness and the wellness of the community.

Recent initiatives have led to new socially concerned organizations including the Pouta Training Centre.[citation needed] The centre provides programs teaching things vital to basic health, such as quitting smoking. The welfare league is also currently battling a sexist backlash, as it continues to exhibit the power women can hold in saving and nurturing a culture.[20][21]

Traditional health issues such as childcare and infant mortality continue to feature in the League's programs alongside more recent developments such as Anti-smoking campaigns; home vegetable growing initiatives such as Kai in the yard and Child car seat campaigns. Many campaigns are centred or hosted on marae (the community-centre in most small Māori communities) and often involve working with health care professionals or other organisations such as Plunket Society or District Health Boards to extend their work into Māori communities.[22]

2011 electionsEdit

In 2011, Hannah Tamaki, Auckland based co-founder of the Destiny Church campaigned for presidency of the League. Since Tamaki joined the League five years previously, the church created several branches of the League within the church.[23] The league distributed voting papers without Tamaki's name and announced that some branches and some members were being investigated. Tamaki launched legal action in the High Court.[24][25]

Ten of thirteen self-identified Destiny branches were constituted at the same time at the Destiny Church's headquarters in Mt Wellington after Hannah Tamaki's nomination. Each of the ten had between 91 and 93 members, apparently to maximise the number of votes.[26] Justice Kos ruled that Tamaki should be reinstated as a candidate in the election, but that the ten recently constituted branches were not legally constituted and should not be able to vote in the election because they had been established completely contrary to the practices and tikanga of the league.[27][28]

Days after the court decision, then-current President Meagan (Wowie) Joe died, after a long battle with breast cancer.[29][30][31] Tamaki maintained her campaign for President.[32]

Kataraina O'Brien, a 40-year veteran of the League won the election.[14] O'Brien has 12 years experience on the Tainui Regional Executive Board of the League and has been the President of the Matua Branch for the past 8 years. She is active in the Merivale area of Tauranga and was a finalist in the Tauranga Community Spirit Awards in November 2008[33][34] O'Brien is a teacher by profession, having taught at Hato Petera and Auckland Girls' Grammar.[35]

In June 2012, the League's National Executive banned Tamaki from holding regional office for three years and disestablished the three remaining League branches associated with her and the Destiny Church.[36] Tamaki announced she would not appeal the ban but was considering setting up a rival organisation.[37][38]


  1. ^ Croker, Olive. "Māori Women's Welfare League". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
  2. ^ http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1945/0042/latest/whole.html
  3. ^ Hill, Richard S (2011). "State Authority, Indigenous Autonomy: Crown-Maori Relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa 1900-1950: The Maori Welfare Organisation". Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Happy 59th Birthday to the Maori Women's Welfare League!". 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  5. ^ "2. New Māori organisations, early 20th century - Ngā rōpū – Māori organisations - Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". teara.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  6. ^ Anderson, Atholl; Binney, Judith; Harris, Aroha (2014). Tangata Whenua: an illustrated history. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books. ISBN 9781927131411. OCLC 813246437.
  7. ^ a b c "In a League by Themselves"
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "MWDI | About Maori Women's Development Incorporated". mwdi.co.nz. 2011. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  9. ^ Bennett, Kitty (2004). "Māori Women's Welfare League" (PDF).
  10. ^ "SPEECH: Speech to the Maori Women's Welfare League National Conference - Rt Hon John Key". johnkey.co.nz. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  11. ^ http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/western-leader/7043506/Tribute-to-Dames-efforts-with-Maori
  12. ^ a b "Hannah Tamaki meeting called off". nzherald.co.nz. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011. Meagan Joe
  13. ^ "TKM | Other Māori Organisations". tkm.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Tamaki loses bid to head league". stuff.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  15. ^ "New Maori dame helped thousands learn te reo". stuff.co.nz. 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012. Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, a life member of the Maori Women's Welfare League and Maori Education Trust, received the honour at Wellington's Premier House from Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand yesterday.
  16. ^ "Kahu Durie, a life well spent". stuff.co.nz. 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012. She taught at a range of schools in the North Island before moving to Whangarei in late 1971. There she joined the Maori Women's Welfare League and later went on to be made a life member.
  17. ^ "Life membership for founding member". stuff.co.nz. 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012. Phyllis Hilet, the founding member of the Timaru Maori Women's Welfare League, has been awarded a life membership to the organisation.
  18. ^ Perrott, Alan (13 January 2004). "New Year Honours: Anne Delamere". New Zealand Herald.
  19. ^ "New Zealand's Māori Women's Welfare League: Working Toward Women's Rights in Saving Māori Culture". Women's News Network (2007).
  20. ^ Rangi, Caren. Welcome for new National President, Māori Women's Welfare League. Tiare Ahuriri. 16 November 2008.
  21. ^ Laing P, Pomare E (1994). "Māori health and the health care reforms". Health Policy. 29 (1–2): 143–56. doi:10.1016/0168-8510(94)90012-4. PMID 10137080.
  22. ^ "Christchurch trust wins major Maori Public Health award". scoop.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011. Te Puawaitanga ki Otautahi Trust emerged as an organisation out of the Otautahi Branch of the Maori Women’s Welfare League (MWWL) in 2004. The Trust is a kaupapa Maori provider who employs over 30 staff and offers a range of community-based Whanau Ora support services
  23. ^ "Destiny Maori welfare wrangle". stuff.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  24. ^ "Tamaki heads to court over league election". stuff.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  25. ^ "League takeover battle erupts". stuff.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  26. ^ "Hannah Tamaki exclusion review under way". NZ Herald. 20 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011. Justice Kos said it was 'remarkable' that all 10 branches had between 91 to 93 members, which appeared to maximise the number of votes each branch - 10 - would receive to participate in the election.
  27. ^ "Hollow victory for Tamaki". NZ Herald. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011. I find the manner in which the new branches have been established completely contrary to the practices and tikanga of the league.
  28. ^ "Hannah Tamaki Response to High Court Ruling". Scoop News. 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  29. ^ "President of Maori Women's Welfare League dies - National - NZ Herald News". NZ Herald. 28 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011. The national president of the Maori Women's Welfare League. Meagan (Wowie) Joe, has died after a long battle with breast cancer.
  30. ^ "Poroporoaki: Meagan Joe". Scoop News. 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  31. ^ "He aituā! Kua mate a Meagan Joe, Māori Womens Welfare League". Scoop News. 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  32. ^ "Michele Hewitson interview: Hannah Tamaki". NZ Herald. 30 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-31. Retrieved 2011-09-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. ^ "Social - Kataraina O'Brien, Brian Kelly, Richard Kluit, Lisa Charman and Mayor Crosby - Finalist". community.tauranga.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  35. ^ "Maori Women's Welfare League names new president". radionz.co.nz. 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2011. She spent about 30 years teaching at secondary schools including Hato Petera and Auckland Girls' Grammar.
  36. ^ "Maori league bars Destiny Church co-founder - Maori - NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 16 June 2012.
  37. ^ "Hannah Tamaki - Statement on Maori Women's Welfare League". Scoop News (Press release).
  38. ^ http://www.waatea603am.co.nz/news/2012/june/tamaki-considers-new-womens-roopu[permanent dead link]

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit