Lillian | Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne

“I was lucky enough to be raised in Tokomaru and raised by a lot of very knowledgeable kuia. As a result, a lot of my values and my belief systems come from that upbringing. I believe that jobs actually pick people. We might like something, but we mightn’t be successful at it, and so the Māori saying of Mā te wā, or time will come, always resonates with me.

I consider myself in my work and personal life as an enabler, and to enable whānau to make decisions, it’s all about sharing information. So, I learned that from my elders. I was raised in Tokomaru Bay. I didn’t leave here until I was 30 years old, which is pretty sad, but the life that Tokomaru Bay offered me at the time was the best life and opportunities that I could offer my four sons. When I was 30 I travelled down to Wellington, worked within the health arena, more-so within promotional services, and then moved into contract management type positions. Currently, I work for Gisborne District Council as the East Coast Liaison Officer. So, more or less, I’m an enabler for whānau up the coast who want to access services, but believe that their requests are falling on deaf ears. 

So my happy place is when I’m doing kapa haka with my whānau and hapū, especially my kuia and koroua. It’s always a privilege to share a stage with those who have experienced life more than we have. We have two hapū in Tokomaru, Te Whānau a Ruataupare, me Te Whānau a Te Aotawarirangi, and both were women chiefs. So, we have very, very strong- willed wāhine on the East Coast, but more-so in Tokomaru. That has really influenced my life, and has taught me that women are equal to men. You can’t have this superior being, and because of that, it’s helped me through my life journey, and will continue to help me.

What’s influenced me into the person I am today? Being brought within a tight whānau unit, and when I talk about whānau, that’s extended whānau. Whānau that live away. They’ve all had a positive influence on my life. My late dad had a positive influence. Whānau used to come around to see him for anything and everything, and my dad always had the philosophy of give. If you’ve got it, give, because one day it will come back to you and your whānau, and our family experienced that when my dad passed away. The whole community and anyone and everyone that knew him came to farewell him, and we were privileged to have them there. Also, being raised within Tokomaru Bay, we had strong Māori wāhine leaders, and they led by example. They didn’t expect you to do what they wouldn’t do, although being younger meant that you did the dishes and all the cleaning up. However their values of manaaki ki ngā tāngata katoa always stuck with me, and that’s to always support people regardless of where they come from, regardless of who they are. Always be welcoming. 

We all need positive role models in our life. I have four adult sons, three grand-daughters and one grandson. So, for me I try to portray the behaviours that are acceptable and respectful to others, so that my sons and my mokopuna also grow to be good, loving people.”

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