This week I am standing down as a board member for PILLARS, an organisation that supports children and whānau of prisoners in Aotearoa. PILLARS is motivated by the tragic reality that children who have parents inside are nine times more likely to end up in prison than other children.

We all have a duty and an obligation to do better by them.

Over the past four years on the Board, my biggest contribution has been in supporting a focus which recognises the value that whānau can bring to the restoration and rehabilitation of their loved one back into the community.

I was also determined that we should not consider the situation for children of prisoners in isolation of their greater context of children within whānau. These are both lessons drawn from my time immersed in the Whānau Ora approach, which prioritises self-determination and a whānau context in everything we do.

Support the whānau of people in prison to create positive futures for and with their children. 

The vision of PILLARS is now to “support the whānau of people in prison to create positive futures for and with their children.”

I am sad to be finishing, especially because this group of children – those with parents in prison – are arguably some of our most vulnerable.

However I believe it is time for fresh energy, and at our AGM we welcomed two new board members, Dante Fyfe (Ngapuhi, Samoa) and Nick Burns.

I cannot help but be humbled by the amazing support of volunteers and mentors for PILLARS.

I acknowledge the vast contribution of the Kamo whānau, particularly the late Raynoll Kamo, who was inspirational in his service and leadership as our Board kaumatua. There has been a huge legacy by trailblazers in Te Waipounamu such as Dr Liz Gordan and Verna McFelin. PILLARS was established by Verna in 1988, and over 32 years her passion for developing this into a national organisation has been enormous.

Just in Canterbury alone, there are over 80,000 people who are eligible for a vaccination; including over 11,000 Māori.

Certificate on Whānau Ora Course

This week I was also privileged to speak at the three-day training based at Wai-Ora for the Certificate on Whānau Ora course. Among the participants were kaimahi from Purapura Whetu, Arowhenua Whānau Services, and Tū Pono Tū Tangata. The focus of the training this week was about the diversity of whānau, as well as the value of PATH planning. As they say, “there are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” What is always so motivating in my times with Tipu Ora is seeing the incredible dedication and burning hunger to learn amongst the advocates and activists for Whānau Ora.

Nau mai, haere mai

This week we welcomed Julia Maxwell (Ngāti Kahungunu) to our whānau here at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu. She will be with us for the summer as our Human Resources People Experience Co-ordinator, researching ways that we can use technology to better engage with our kaimahi. This is something Julia is passionate about and that she is studying as part of her Masters in Commerce. Juliet has been placed at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu through our partnership with TupuToa, a programme that helps increase Māori and Pacific representation in leadership in the corporate sector. We’re looking forward to having Juliet with us for the next few months and seeing her overhaul our systems!

Māori Communities COVID-19 fund

We were delighted this week to announce new funding of $700,000 approved by the Ministerial Overview Group as part of the Māori Communities COVID-19 fund.

The Māori Communities COVID-19 Fund involves a two-phase approach focused on further mobilising local vaccination initiatives for whānau, and on supporting Māori, iwi and communities to prepare for the new protection framework.

We put forward a proposal to accelerate Māori vaccinations and build on the previous work cross our Whānau Ora Partners including vaccination clinics, events, mobile outreach, food distribution, communication and removing barriers to vaccination. All of South Island and targeted initiatives to Invercargill, Alexandra, Ōtautahi and Te Tai Poutini.

The proposal from Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu in Invercargill was particularly creative. They want to go door to door in high Maori population areas and out into isolated communities; to run campaigns with kura and kohanga; to run clinics at events; to be where their whānau work, live and play.

Other Whānau Ora Partners that put forward successful initiatives included Uruuruwhenua Health in Alexandra; Te Ha o Kawatiri in Westport; the Māori Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) and Whānau Whanake in Ōtautahi.

Kōanaga Kai - Hohepa Kōhanga Reo

Earlier this year we were pleased to support Te Hohepa Kōhanga Reo in Phillipstown, Otautahi through our Kōanga Kai initiative, allowing them to fulfil their dream of developing a new māra kai on their premises.

They began with some blue barrels that were donated by Whaea Tuhira, which Matua Dion cut in half.

They used their funding to purchase the remaining materials for the garden beds, as well as potting mix, seeds, seedlings and a new fence.


The tamariki were fascinated watching the māra kai being assembled, and once it was ready they were all involved in the planting of tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, corn, pumpkin, kamokamo, capsicum, strawberries and broccoli.

These are growing well and the tamariki are looking forward to harvesting their first kai!

Lazy Lunches Canterbury

Lazy Lunches in Kaiapoi, Canterbury was formed to supply nutritional lunches to tamariki whose whānau may not have the time, knowledge, money or means to make and supply healthy food for school lunches. Ataahua Solomon started this kaupapa initially by providing lunches for the tamariki at Tuahiwi School. Lazy Lunches has also been negotiating and working with the Ministry of Education to ensure that everything done was acceptable as well as discussing further supply options to other schools.

In August, a contract to lease a registered commercial kitchen was signed and in September, Lazy Lunches have started negotiations with another education facility to start providing lunches there. Over this quarter has also seen the setting up of packaging and wholesale accounts to ensure a smoother process of supply. Lazy Lunches Canterbury have a goal to ensure current demand is met sufficiently and effectively before growing too fast.

The Fitt Mum Project

The Fitt Mum Project was designed to provide mothers with face-to-face and online fitness classes which focussed on the physical hauora for hardworking Māmā. The kaupapa offers learning about how mothers can care for their own physical hauora through fitness and health sessions, thus allowing them to better care for themselves and their whānau.

The Fitt Mum Project have spent the last quarter concentrating on their marketing by getting their brand promoted through many different sources including an updated website. A recent addition of a qualified Nutritionist has added extra dimension to the support that they offer.

The team have also put effort into professional development having completed further learning and certification in pelvic floor essentials and a pre and postnatal course.

Fitt Mums have four instructors who deliver the sessions and have a current following of 33 mothers who have recently just completed a July-October challenge.

Mum life is HARD, but when you have the right support, resources, and determination, you can achieve anything you set your mind to!



I have learnt so much throughout my own health and fitness journey, and I know how hard it can be to reach your goals

That is why I have created The Fitt Mum Project – to help Mums like you not only achieve long term results, but to help you become the BEST version of you!

Mum life is HARD, but when you have the right support, resources, and determination, you can achieve anything you set your mind to!

Manaaki Mai, Manaaki Atu

When it comes to vaccination, my advice is – go away and think about your choice. Consider your whānau, consider your friends, consider all the people you love. When you’re ready, whether that’s in an hour, a day, a week or even a month, come back and tell me your answer. And whatever choice you’ve made, you need to own it – you need to be proud of it for you and for your whānau.

In all this kōrero about vaccination, we can’t force our opinion on anyone else. Sometimes when people are told they must do something, it makes them do the opposite. They need time and space to make good choices.

For me, I was a bit sceptical to start with. I did a lot of reading. I was influenced by what you see on social media. There were questions like, is this too soon? Has this happened too quickly? What about the new strains?

Then I thought about my situation. I spend a lot of time at the pā in Rāpaki surrounded by the whānau – all the aunties, the uncles and the cuzzies too. I will do anything I can to protect them.

I also thought about what I do for mahi as a Whānau Ora Navigator and the number of different people and groups I see in just one day. The way I interact with them, the way I greet them. The potential that every time I see someone new the virus could jump. Not only is the spread scary, but I thought about who I could spread it to.

Some of the people I know are more vulnerable, a lot of kaumātua, a lot of people who I know wouldn’t do well if they caught the virus.

I also talked about it with my whānau, and I listened and heard about their experiences of getting the jab and why they chose to do it. And I came back with my decision. I’ve been vaccinated and I am proud of it. I did it to protect myself, to protect my whānau, to protect all the people I love.