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Wikitoria Te Huru Huru

A speech given by Moana Vineyard on the dedication day of the Nursing Building - June 2008

It is an honor to be here today with the Prime Minister and other members of New Zealand’s government, the faculty of Whitireia Polytechnic, with my iwi Ngati Toa and my whanau.  It is a unique opportunity for me to participate in the dedication of the building to the life of my aunty Wiki who naturally holds a special place in my heart since she was with me throughout the entirety of my childhood and with all of us until 2006.  Now the qualities that she embodied and exemplified during her 94 years are carved into the fabric of the community of Whitireia, of Ngati Toa and New Zealand in this beautiful two story building that will house classrooms and office space primarily for nursing students and faculty. 

 I found it especially gratifying to come to understand that Her courage and her determination to accomplish the tasks that her destiny brought to her created a desire within the heart and mind of a young woman here at Whitireia, Sha Panapa.  Sha eloquently made the proposal to the faculty of Whitireia to have this building named for Wikitoria Katene.  For Sha, Aunty Wiki manifested in her mind as a maori  Florence Nightingale:  “As whanau spoke about her I could see a woman in my minds eye huddled in the sand next to injured and dying soldiers, enduring harshness of the desert and army life with the grace, stoicsm and humor that maori have no matter where we end up.”  Thank you Sha for your recommendation and for your insight into our aunt.  And thank-you to the faculty of Whitireia for the honor that is being bestowed upon our aunt and our family. 

Aunty Wiki was born in 1912  and In spite of the fact that schooling was sparse in the early 1900’s and food and clothing not easy to come by  Aunty Wiki was able to attend Porirua elementary and Wellington Technical College.  In addition, she was given an opportunity to learn the maori healing arts from her grandmother in Taupo where she was taught to heal with roots, herbs and leaves.  She took this knowledge and combined it with what grew to be a natural gift to heal with her heart and with her spirit.  Through the following years she found a resonance with her desires and with what destiny brought her providing healing and service to the sick & the needy in her whanau and iwi.  She used maori healing methods for her sister Tilly bathing her leg injuries in Mamaku fern and using a poultice to draw out the poisons.  Again, when a young cousin was severely burned by spilt hot jam Wiki quickly volunteered to be a skin graft donor. 
Like others of Ngati Toa Wiki was a keen hockey player and was a foundation member of the first maori women’s hockey team, the Toa Hockey Club.  She was also a founding member of the Ngati Poneke Maori Club and prior to female missionaries becoming common she served a two year mission in the Hawkes Bay Napier area for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She  was there to provide her healing as well as her spiritual services during the Napier earthquake.  When she was 22 in 1934 she was presented with the opportunity to learn more of the healing arts with First Aid and nursing classes with the Red Cross.  Wiki willingly accepted this opportunity to expand her skills seeing that educating herself would create a greater benefit to others. 
One of her greatest calls to service came from her country when WWII broke out and the Minister of Maori Affairs called her to go to war.  She became the first maori nurse from Porirua to join the services as a volunteer in fact she was the only maori nurse in her company.  In her own words, “I was the only maori woman in the whole outfit.”  And typically, once she was enrolled in service she turned to others in her community and encouraged them to do likewise calling those she knew in the maori and European communities to join as she had.   A woman training for a career was not a popular idea in prewar days and Wiki’s family had initially not been supportive of her training to be a nurse, but she was capable of independent thought and had made her own decisions and now she could accept the responsibilities that were to be hers because she was prepared. 
In 1941 she sailed on the “Maunganui” headed for Europe and celebrated her 30th birthday in Egypt as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACS).   With the Voluntary Attached Division she spent time in the Middle East, in Italy, France and Belgium and was privileged to travel to Jerusalem where she witnessed first hand the return of the Jews to Palestine.  In her memoirs she reports:  “My companions were amazed at how the people lived and slept together in compounds known as Kibbutz, but not me.  The Jews were living as the Maori people do at home.  My experience with them helped convince me that all people “came from the same trunk” and are part of one great family. 
In 1943 she was recognized for her nursing contribution with a military award, “Mentioned in Dispatches”.  She treasured her army experiences and only had one homesick reflection, she says again in her memoirs, “In spite of all the hardships of war through Italy, I enjoyed everything until I saw a cow – and I realized then what I had been missing.” 
After the war Wiki’s heart and mind returned to whanau, iwi and to her church.  She took a job with the Welfare Office of Maori Affairs in Auckland where it was a part of her new tasks to tend to the needs of the broken hearted and the wounded returning  from the war.  Her exceptional ability to communicate aroha and hope gave her the capacity to assist others to find employment and to re-establish themselves in the post war community.  She worked devotedly in her church welcoming the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at the Mission home in Auckland.  
In Auckland Aunty Wiki met and married Douglas Whatu and they were married for 35 years.  Wikitoria Tehuruhuru Katene Whatu passed away peacefully on 20th August 2006.   She was a lifetime patron for the Porirua Women’s Section of the RSA and In 1992, when she was 80, Wiki was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of her services to her country and to her community.  In achknowledgement of her contribution to nursing a scholarship has been created in her honor and is available through the Whitireia Nursing Course.  The Wikitoria Te Huruhuru Katene Whatu Nursing Scholarship is awarded to second or third year nursing students who can demonstrate maori whakapapa and who have successfully completed their first year of nursing. 
A priority is given to students who can demonstrate Ngati Toa or Ngati Tama whakapapa and who have proven academic records and a commitment to working within the health sector in the Porirua Wellington region . 
Wikitoria will always be remembered and honored as a true queen of her people and by the students of future generations she will be recognized as a woman who sought opportunities to learn and to grow no matter what her personal circumstances and then who further sought to take that learning and use it to heal the broken in body and spirit.  If to lead is to serve, Wiki’s capacity to serve her iwi, her church, her whanau and her country establishes her as a valued leader of all the generations to come particularly  maori women  who might feel that the obstacles to their learning and training are overwhelming and that they have nothing to give.  Wiki’s life teaches us all that there are no obstacles too large, no challenge too overwhelming.  Her quiet dignity, her aroha and her spiritual devotion will draw to this building those who wish, like her, to train in the healing arts and to provide skillful, compassionate treatment to the sick and to the needy.