Tureiti Moxon, who grew up as the eldest of 12 kids on a Mohaka farm, is actually Lady Tureiti Moxon, if we were to behave formally for a moment. That title is a result of her husband, David, a Pākehā, being knighted a couple of years ago because of his work with the Anglican Church, where he rose to be the Archbishop of New Zealand. He’s now based in the Vatican as the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
But that’s another story. Here we have Dale Husband talking with Tureiti, who has a Ngāti Pahauwera, Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu whakapapa, and who has been making waves through the years in education (especially with kōhanga reo), law (as a barrister and solicitor), and health (as the managing director of Te Kohao Health in Hamilton).
Whaea, thanks for joining us today. I wonder if we might start with your Mohaka connections — and you growing up there as the eldest of 12 children.
Our grandfather, Neri (Ned) Hawkins, ran a farm in Mohaka during the time when Apirana Ngata was trying to make all our multiple-owned land economic. Make it so that everybody could make a living from their land.
So my grandfather did that, and when he was too old for that work, my father, Te Muera Hawkins, took over the farm. But the farm was never economic enough to sustain the family. So my father worked at the freezing works during the week, while my mum, Margaret, and her children, milked the cows and looked after the farm and planted all the kai. And all the whānau would come home and dig up the kai and take the kai off to the various corners of the country where they lived. So everybody in the family had a part in doing that.
Our whānau in Mohaka have always had strong women. And we’ve also been very Anglican as well. That’s us, really.
I suppose that, as the eldest of 12, you carried a good share of the responsibilities.
Well, when there are 12 children, you’ve got one coming in just about every year. So you have to help. All of us had to help. I’d get up in the mornings and go round up the cows and bring them in to the cowshed. My mother would come over and milk the cows and then I’d go home and try to get a little bit more sleep before school. Then get all the children up. Cook porridge and toast and get everybody ready and out the door for school.
When my mother finished milking (and separating), I’d go over and pick up the cream can on my horse, take it down to the end of the road and drop it off there. And then go to school. After school, I’d come home, round up all the cows, take them down to the river for a drink. Then we’d milk again in the afternoon. So a lot of my time growing up was really looking after my siblings and helping. As you do in the family. You’re the workhorse. Everybody pitched in. Housework. Preparing meals. All that kind of thing.
The tuākana has to tell the siblings what to do. Has to be bossy. Has to make a lot of effort. But perhaps there’s a payback for all that effort as a tuākana?
Well, you do learn leadership. And you’re learning as you go. Everyone is learning from each other. But, when I was 12, I got a scholarship from the Māori Education Foundation that allowed me to attend Hukarere. So all my fees were paid. And that was great because we didn’t have a lot of tikanga — cultural things, at home. Although my grandfather was a fluent speaker, my father wasn’t. It wasn’t until later years that he became more fluent and more interested.
But Hukarere really gave me a grounding in tikanga. And it gave me the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of other young Māori girls — and to learn the graces of young Māori women. If there was a payback, that probably was it.
That, of course, helps you to think far beyond your own circumstances, and your own whānau. And it certainly did that for me. So when I left school, I went overseas. Canon Wi Te Tau Huata was our Anglican priest, as well as my father’s first cousin. He asked me if I was interested in going to India and I thought he was joking. A year later, he asked me again, and this time I said “Yes”. There were four of us, three originally from Wairoa. And we went to Panchgani, near Mumbai in India, and joined a song and dance troupe called Song of Asia under the auspices of Moral Re-Armament.
The troupe was made up of 60 young people from 14 different countries and represented all the great religions of the world. And I think that probably was a turning point in my life. It certainly gave me a greater tolerance and understanding of others who were different from me. An understanding of different lives and cultures — and food that was so different.
No doubt you know of many other Hukarere girls who’ve gone on to all sorts of success and to do interesting things.
Well, some are in government departments — and are leading the way there. Others own their own businesses. They’re doing all kinds of things. In different walks of life. For instance, I’ve got a friend who’s a nurse in the Australian outback. It’s astounding really to see the influence that our Māori schools have had. All the male schools as well: Hato Petera, Hato Pāora, Tipene, Te Aute. And certainly St Joseph’s, the Roman Catholic school in Napier.
So the closures of some of our Māori schools — Tipene, Queen Vic and Turakina — are real losses, aren’t they?
There’s a couple of things, really. First of all, we’re losing that religious or church wairuatanga. That gives you the opportunity to learn the meaning of a higher being, and to appreciate ritual. We have ritual in the hāhi (the church). There are different values and principles. And all of those things help create the kind of people we turn out to be.
And, while some schools give some of that, I think that the church schools give a special opportunity to grow and develop as a Māori woman or Māori man. And they give you an opportunity to appreciate those who have gone on before — and appreciate the contributions and sacrifices made in this country by Māori. That’s normally not taught in schools — and that, I think, is sad. But, in the church schools, there’s a pride, a confidence, a camaraderie, a whanaungatanga that lots of others don’t provide. That’s my view.
Back from your jaunt to India, you went to university and studied law. How did you come to take that path?
When we were involved in our Treaty claims, I presented evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal. Sian Elias, who’s now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Aotearoa, was our lawyer for Ngāti Pahauwera. And, after I gave evidence, she came up to me and she said: “Tureiti, I think you should seriously think of a career in law.” At that point, I’d never ever thought I was going to do anything in law. I thought that, if I was going to do anything, it would be in education. So that got me thinking. And, after I had my last child, I started at law school — and did four years at Waikato University. Had four children too, so that was pretty challenging to manage that. Then I was admitted to the bar and, for almost three years, worked with McCaw Lewis Chapman here in Hamilton. I worked on Treaty claims, Treaty jurisprudence and Māori land law and civil law.
That was one of the most difficult experiences of my whole life because it’s a culture that’s very different from anything I’d ever done. My focus has always been people, but being a lawyer in a law firm is about money and doing as much as you can to make lots of money. So one third of what you earned was your salary. One third was for your overheads. And the last third was profit for the partners.
That was pretty difficult for me to come to terms with. But I had a go at it and I did it. Then it became much more difficult to continue, because my husband (Archbishop David Moxon) was travelling a lot at the time and I needed to be at home with the children. So I took on a job as managing director at Te Kohao Health. And, I tell you what, I haven’t looked back since.
Naturally, David and his role in the church have been playing a huge part in your life. How did you come to link up with him?
He was a priest when I met him. That was in Havelock North in Napier. He had just come back from Oxford in England, where he’d completed his theological training. And here he was as the trainee priest in the Havelock North parish. We had a lot in common because we’d both travelled widely.
Our lives have been a part of the church for more than 36 years now. That’s how long we’ve been married. Earlier, he was a protege, if you like, of Sir Paul Reeves, who was also a former Archbishop of New Zealand. It was Paul who had organised for David to go to Oxford, to the same college (St Peter’s) where he had studied.
David, at the moment, is in Rome. Before he went to Rome, he was the archbishop of the New Zealand church which is the Pākehā side of the three tikanga within the Anglican Church. That being tikanga Polynesia, tikanga Māori and tikanga Pākehā. And each of those three tikanga have an archbishop and, under them, they each have their own bishops and dioceses. We both served in the tikanga Pākehā side of the church and lived, most of our time, here in Hamilton. David was a bishop for 20 years and, of that, five years were as archbishop. Then he was called to Rome where he now resides and has been there for three years this month.
He is the representative of the Archbishop Canterbury to the Holy See. The Holy See is the Vatican. So he works closely with them. And his work includes a Vatican project fighting slavery throughout Europe, and worldwide. There’s a network of religious leaders from all the churches — Christian and non-Christian all working together to fight the evils of slavery, which is rampant. Apparently more rampant now, than it was when it was legal. It is powerful and it’s everywhere. And so he’s working with them on that.
Now that you’re at the helm of Te Kohao Health, do you feel, especially with Whānau Ora now operating, that there’s scope for more innovation and more progress?
The thing is that our people are in a bad way right now. Poverty is rife. It’s absolutely rife. And anybody living on a benefit, is living in poverty. It doesn’t matter how you want to dress it up. The fact is, they don’t have enough money to make ends meet. Our children are suffering from that. And we will suffer the consequences for generations to come. So, at some point, we’ve got to stop it. That’s the challenge for every person in our society. It’s a challenge for the NUMA (National Urban Māori Authority). It’s a challenge for Te Pou Matakana. It’s a challenge for us here at Te Kohao Health. We have to turn the tide on it.
We have tried to do that here with our Whānau Ora collective who are made up of eight different providers, both iwi and urban. What we’ve tried to do is increase household disposable income through education and employment. Because, if they get a job, their household income rises. They might start off with a low-paying job but they’re in the workforce. They’re actually able to move themselves to wherever they want to go. And once they build confidence in themselves and believe that they can do it, they can do anything.
That’s the beauty of Whānau Ora. I think it’s one of the most innovative, creative ideas — ideologies, if you like — that we’ve had for a very, very long time. And the best thing about it is that it’s whānau/family-centred and whānau-driven. Because it’s whānau-centred, our job is to empower them to do this for themselves. It’s not for us to create a dependency so that we’re doing it for them. That’s the brilliance of the vision of Tariana Turia and Mason Durie. Whānau Ora captured our imagination here at Te Kohao, and we just knew that this was the way forward, as an organisation and for whānau.
And so now, every whānau has an opportunity to participate in Whānau Ora. That’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to go look for them. They come in every single day into our clinics throughout the Hauraki-Waikato region.
It’s a step up from the support that WINZ has been offering?
Well, WINZ has a practice — they say it’s not a policy, but it certainly is a practice — which means that they answer people’s questions, but they don’t tell them what they’re actually entitled to. So, instead of being helpful to whānau, they’re left to struggle. Now we have kaiārahi or navigators who are informed to support and empower whānau to receive their correct benefits or entitlements. This in turn assists whānau to increase their household income. So they have more income, more money in the pocket. It’s that kind of stuff we’re helping them work through.
We can see where your heart is and what Te Kohao Health means to you. But can you sum up what you want to achieve?
I would like to turn the tide on poverty for our people. We now have our Te Ngira Whānau Ora collective across the Hauraki-Waikato region and an informed workforce focused on increasing household disposable income through education and employment. It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s here now. Too many of our people have been the slaves of poverty — and now, through education and employment, they can dream of a better future for themselves and their whānau.
It would be a great achievement to fulfil the whakatauki of Princess Te Puea Herangi of Tainui, who said: “Mehemea ka moemoeā tātou, ka taea e tātou.” If I am to dream, I dream alone. If we all dream together, then we shall achieve.
Thank you for reading E-Tangata. If you like our focus on Māori and Pasifika stories, interviews, and commentary, we need your help. Our content takes skill, long hours and hard work. But we're a small team and non-profit, so we need the support of our readers to keep going. If you support our kaupapa and want to see us continue, please consider contributing $5 or $10 a month.