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Kuia Mate Carr gets award from Māori Women’s Welfare League for decades of service

CATHERINE GROENESTEIN

Last updated 12:46, February 5 2018

Matekitawhiti Carr receives an award for more than 65 years of service to the Māori Women’s Welfare League from Betty Anderson during a celebration in Hāwera on Friday.

A woman instrumental in setting up kōhanga reo in South Taranaki and nationwide has been honoured by those who worked alongside her.

Matekitawhiti Carr, 95, better known as “Aunty Mate” or “Nan” to many, was all smiles as she received recognition of her 35 years service to kōhanga reo (Māori language preschools, or, literally, language nests) and her 65 years’ involvement with Te Rōpū Wāhine Māori Toko I te Ora (Māori Women’s Welfare League) on Friday in a ceremony at Trinity Rest Home, Hāwera, where she lives.

Kaumatua John Hooker said she was a foundation member of kōhanga reo in South Taranaki, as well as  being secretary of the Taranaki Māori Trust Board and some other major Māori organisations in the region.

Tiahuia Abraham QSO, Matekitawhiti Carr, Huia Raweti and Betty Anderson with certificates recognising their work together over more than 35 years nurturing Te Kohanga Reo .

“She’s a strong Māori woman role model, uncompromising in her cultural values, also a strong family person as well as a strong person in the Catholic faith. She’s our Dame Whina of South Taranaki.”

He said there were about 120 kōhanga reo in the Aotea region at its peak.

Matekitawhiti Carr (centre) was surrounded by family and friends at a presentation in Hāwera on Friday to see her honoured for her 65 years of service to the Maori Women’s Welfare League and 35 years nurturing Te Kohanga Reo in South Taranaki and nationwide.

Although the numbers had since declined, kōhanga reo was still going strong, and with kurakaupapa (Maori language schools) the movement was flourishing.

“Now we’re just starting to see the next level, the wharekura (secondary) schools, with schools in Ngati Ruanui and Ngaruahinerangi, we are seeing the flowering in secondary schooling now.”

The honours had been arranged for presentation at the league’s national conference in New Plymouth last year, but Mrs Carr, who has dementia, was unable to attend, so the presentation was brought to her.

Three women who worked alongside Mate Carr presented her with a certificate, a brooch and gifts, in a ceremony with singing, karakia and laughter, attended by about 20 whanau and friends.

Tiahuia Abraham QSO, the league’s  Aotea branch president, spoke of Carr’s dedication to the development of kōhanga reo, and her imitable sense of style, fashion sense and strong leadership.

“In those days when a kuia called, you didn’t say no,” she smiled.

“Her leadership gave us the courage to get out there and do the work for the education of our mokopuna and tamariki.”

Abraham also received a certificate for her service to the league, along with Huia Reweti and Betty Anderson