Mum was right. There are better ways to deliver a message.

Forever ago, I was of a mind to state exactly what I thought – unedited. Honest and blunt. Just an opinion. Take it or leave it.

On one such occasion, I wrote a think piece on the role of Maori women on the marae. The Matriarch was not impressed. I thought it was written with humour. Mum saw an opinion devoid of humility.

The mistake was taking a roundabout swipe at the then Governor-General, Dame Cath Tizard. My nemesis was soon on the phone.

“That woman has worked hard all her life. You talk about the rights of women and then you trample on one.”

Mum was right. There are better ways to deliver a message.

The reprimands have been frequent and often funny. In the late 1990s, I reported on the Maori Battalion C Company’s return to Italy. What marvellous characters. Tears by day, dancing by night, whiskeys until dawn – and then on the bus a couple of hours later to do it all again.

I was so proud of what they shared and excitedly phoned home. My mother had watched the broadcast. But all she saw was her daughter in a grey suit beside the war graves. Never mind the story. I should have worn black.

“You looked like a ghost floating through the urupa. Our old people notice things like that. You forget, they are watching.”

Thereon, the black suit was on permanent standby.

I always called home as a foreign correspondent, especially before entering a conflict zone. During the Kosovo War, there wasn’t time. We flew in and filed from Macedonia before I dialled. Mum answered. The story had already appeared on breakfast news. I hastened to reassure her that we were safe. Her rebuke was glorious.

“Yes, but your hair didn’t look very good, did it?”

As Maori in broadcasting, how we act, how we appear, what we say and how we say it, does matter. The motu carries our success but also our downfalls.

So, this afternoon I’ve been packing my bags and preparing for Auckland as interim Head of News and Current Affairs for the Maori Television Service. As always, Mum’s advice was the deciding factor.

“Wonderful. You get up there and you support. It’s time.”

Finally, after all these years, I’m not arguing. I know my Mama is right.


© E-Tangata, 2014

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 not-for-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 making a one-off donation or contributing $5 or $10 a month.