Staff Profile

Meet Tui Kaumoana, UniServices Kaiārahi

30 June 2021
Learn about Tui Kaumoana (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) and her role as Kaiārahi – a leader and bridge between UniServices and Māori communities.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Tēnā Koutou Katoa,

Ko Pirongia tōku Maunga, ko Kawhia tōku moana, ko Tainui tōku Waka. Waikato taniwha rau. He piko, he taniwha, he piko he taniwha!

Tōku rima aku tamariki, tōku tahi aku mokopuna, Ko Michael Steedman taku hoa Rangatira, nō Ngāti Whatua Ōrākei ia. Kei te noho au ki Tāmaki Makaurau. 

I have an MBA from University of Auckland, with a specialisation in Māori business development and a thesis on the commercialisation of Māori medicine.

Before UniServices I worked in corporate and protocol roles with Waikato Tainui and the Office of the Kiingitanga, which has really enhanced my passion for positive Māori kaupapa. 

I also have extensive business and entrepreneurial experience. I spent six years in Shanghai running a furniture manufacturing company that exported products made with New Zealand pine to Canada, Australia and Aotearoa. I’m therefore a speaker of Mandarin.

When I returned home, I started a family business, the Auckland Night Markets, with my whanau. This was inspired by my experience of the Hong Kong ladies’ markets. Our grand opening was in Pakuranga in 2010 and the company became hugely successful, so we quickly expanded and now there are seven Auckland night markets and one in Hamilton. 


What does your role as Kaiārahi involve?

This position is a unique opportunity to champion Te Ao Māori initiatives. With around 400 staff at UniServices, my time is split between working to improve Māori cultural competency internally and ensuring we build authentic relationships externally. I work closely with the executive team to provide insight and strategic advice to ensure mutually beneficial Māori partnerships are developed and maintained.

What are your aspirations as Kaiārahi?

To ensure UniServices continues to build as an active contributor to the aspirations of Te Ao Māori and to be a sought-after partner. 

What does Matariki mean to you and how do you usually celebrate?

In my whānau, we believe Matariki is a time for togetherness and remembrance of loved ones that have passed away the previous year. We have all been affected by the devastating loss of life worldwide due to Covid-19 either directly or indirectly and it has been painful.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, tangi (funerals) and hura kōhatu (unveilings) were cancelled or held via Zoom, which has left an open wound without the proper rituals undertaken for many whānau, mine included. We believe those that have passed have been transformed into stars – “te hunga kua whetūrangitia” – and are shining down from the heavens. So, we are especially looking forward to the opportunity this year, 2 July 2021, to unite as a whānau, to farewell and look upon our newest stars.

Do you have any suggestions for celebrating Matariki?

Traditionally our people worked all year to preserve kai to be stored in preparation for Matariki. This is a time where winter is at its coldest and most of the crops would have already been harvested. The pātaka (food stores) were full and whānau had free time for wānanga (conference), to be together, to keep each other safe and warm. The festivities celebrated included the lighting of fires, the making of offerings, and rituals to farewell the dead, to honour the ancestors and to celebrate new life. I would recommend all people of Aotearoa New Zealand come together to remember their ancestors, share food, sing, tell stories and play music.

As an organisation, for Matariki this month, we had the privilege of experiencing the beautiful hospitality of the Ōrākei Marae with around 80 UniServices staff for an exciting Matariki workshop and hangi feast. Our staff were able to experience a formal pōwhiri to contribute individually to the protocols involved. 

We had three speakers, starting with a historical presentation from Matua Taiaha Hawke about Bastion Point, the history of the surrounding lands and the emotional and tumultuous journey Ngāti Whatua Ōrākei has taken to the present day. 

The second keynote speaker was Manihera Forbes, who spoke of Māori navigation and his experiences sailing in a double hulled waka from Aotearoa to the Pacific Islands. He clearly explained how Māori had purposely travelled to Aotearoa for hundreds if not thousands of years. 

Our third speaker, Te Kahuratai Painting, spoke of Maramataka, the Māori calendar, and how our ancestors utilised the lunar cycles in everyday life. 

Finally, we had Pā Heremi Hema as our minita to offer karakia for our loved ones who were in hospital or sick and especially for our Kaumatua Rawiri Wharemate, moe mai rā. We also shared in prayer for our loved ones who passed away recently and have been transformed into stars. 

Do you have a favourite whakataukī?

“Mā te huruhuru ka rere te manu” – Adorn the bird with feathers to enable it to fly.

I like this whakataukī (proverb) because it speaks of empowerment. Being a mother of daughters, I’m always mindful to treat wahine in particular with respect, to consider how I would like my daughters to be treated.

Nō reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.