“As a girl who left school at sixteen, I never dreamed of university education or in adulthood gaining a Ph.D. in chemistry. I didn’t know about my Māori heritage until a few years ago. I had no idea.
I was brought up entirely Pākehā, but the first time I stepped onto a Marae to go to a tangi I felt completely at home and that this is the way death should be dealt with.
I felt compelled to learn the language a few years ago, now I have an MA in Māori and Indigenous Studies.
My spoken Te Reo is not so good – there’s a lovely word in Māori, whakamā. It’s kind of a mixture of performance anxiety, embarrassment, shyness – when I try to have a conversation I get tongue-tied but I can write a passable essay.
I love bright colour and everyone’s always commenting on how I never have beige or whatever on, but I’m only just gaining confidence now. I came from being a child who always felt overlooked, then a person under one domination or another and took a long time to have the courage to be me.
Now people think I couldn’t ever have been that way, but a lot of the time I feel like I’m still like that underneath.”