Labour’s Maori caucus have paid tribute to the two mana wahine Maori Members of Parliament, Hon Iriaka Ratana and Hon Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan OSM, who were recognised alongside the original male Native MPs in a special event at Parliament today.
They were honoured after a request by Labour’s Manurewa MP Louisa Wall who says they deserved to be acknowledged alongside their male counterparts.
“Today was about recognising that between them they served our people for 50 years and their legacy enabled people like me to aspire to be in Parliament.
“This is very much about ensuring that their contribution is remembered for future generations,” says Louisa Wall.
Labour’s Te Tai Hauauru MP Adrian Rurawhe is a direct descendent of Iriaka Ratana.
“Nan came here in 1949 and I’m proud to see her portrait alongside the knights Apirana Ngata, Peter Buck, Maui Pomare and James Carroll in Matangirea inside the original Native Affairs select committee room.
“These Maori women were strong inspirational leaders and it’s time they were acknowledged alongside the other leaders.
“My Ratana whanau considered the request an honour as we recognise their special historic contribution.
“Iriaka Ratana entered parliament in 1949 and was an MP for 20 years. In the beginning she was considered unsophisticated but eloquent and everyone seemed to like her,” says Adrian Rurawhe.
Labour’s MP for Te Tai Tonga, Rino Tirikatene, is a nephew of Whetu Tirikatene Sullivan who entered parliament in 1967 to 1996.
“It’s a wonderful day to share this with my whanau and so lovely to see my aunts photo next to her father, my poua.
“Maori have a proud history of having a voice at Parliament so it’s great to have all the whanau here with us recognising that these women lived their political lives providing years of service to all our people,” says Rino Tirikatene.