Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, born 1932, has been active in a wide-range of educational, welfare, cultural, and community programmes for Maori people for over 30 years. She has worked towards the harmonious relationship between the Maori and European New Zealand communities and advocated on behalf of Maori in order to remove disparities between the two cultures.
She is a former Member of Parliament for Southern Maori and a former Cabinet Minister, she was Minister of Tourism, Associate Minister of Social Welfare, and Minister for the Environment. She is also the longest serving woman in the history of the New Zealand Parliament, having served in office from 1967 to 1996.
She has promoted Maori input in local government planning and was instrumental in the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal, Marae and Papakainga Housing, Maori news on radio and television, the protection of Maori fishing grounds, the Tangata Whenua vote, and she pioneered preventative health education in Maori.
Before her public service career, Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan worked as a social worker and served the community in many other areas. She addressed issues such as domestic violence and was instrumental in the establishment of the first group of social workers to dedicate themselves to this problem.
Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan was also active in educational fields. She was the founding President of the New Zealand Maori Students’ Federation and whilst she was Vice-President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association in 1960, she advocated the student health counselling service, the instigation of tuition in te reo, and the offering of New Zealand history courses at university.
Citation prepared 1993