Katerina has recently joined the Hāpai whānau for placement as part of the Social Work degree she’s studying towards at Unitec. She’ll be supporting us over the next few months with developing compassionate and progressive smokefree policies. We feel really grateful to have such a strong, intelligent wahine Māori join our tobacco control team.

Ko Te Reinga te maunga 
Ko Waihou te awa
Ko Hokianga te moana 
Ko Ngatokimatawhaorua te waka
Ko Waihou nui a rua te Marae
Ko Te Rarawa te Iwi
Ko Ngati Te Reinga te hapu
Ko Te Reinga te tangata
No Waihou ahau
Ko Katerina Te Tai toku ingoa

Where are you from?
Born and raised in Henderson, West Auckland overlooking the lush, green Waitakere ranges, with west coast beaches and local waterfalls close by being my playground…however my heart has always been at home in Waihou, located in the far north nestled in the serene and spiritual Hokianga Whakapau Karakia. This is where I am most at peace, and where I go to re-energize and re-vitalize my wairua.

How would your whānau describe you?
I come from a whānau of 8 kids, I am the second oldest of my siblings and the eldest girl. They would probably describe me as the boss sister, strong headed, passionate about what I believe in and determined to achieve whatever I put my mind to. I am a single parent to my 10 year old son. When I asked him how he would describe me he said, “You’re beautiful- you’re the best mum ever, and your good at chores.” I can always rely on my son for his kind words.

What inspired you to become a social worker?
Being someone friends and family would come to in times of need lead me to know that helping people is something that made my heart full. Being a young mum and having my son a 17 years old, along with some not so good life experiences and events made me realize that I wanted to help people who may be struggling with things I had experienced and to fight things such as injustice, racism, inequality in all areas of life.

What are your dreams and ambitions?
Career wise, I want to be helping people, whether that be advocating for change at structural level or working with people in the community. I want to change things that I see are unjust, I am hoping to complete my Bachelor Degree in social practice by July 2020 and then be out in the community helping to create change, especially creating change for Māori so that we can thrive in all areas of life.
Personally I want to be happy in whatever I am doing, healthy, and successful. I would like to learn how to fluently korero I te reo Māori and I hope to own my own house one day in the near future as well as travel the world.

What is your proudest achievement?
My son is my proudest achievement. He is kind, caring, respectful, humorous, happy, easy going, hardworking, creative, and loves his kapa haka and waiata.

My favourite whakatauki is? 
“Mai i te Kōpae ki te Urupa, tātou ako tonu ai” which means from the cradle to the grave, we are forever learning. I’m proud to have gone back to Uni to study after being not so successful in high school and dropping out at 15. To be where I am now almost at the end of this degree and sticking to it through all the trials and tribulations is something I am proud of. Showing my son that getting an education, doing something I love and am passionate about is important to model to him and that if you put your mind to it, work hard and preserver anything is within reach.

Who are your role models and why?
Mum – raised 7 kids
Dad – Always worked hard to provide
Friends – Resilient, supportive, and caring
Tūpuna – people of mana, leaders, teachers, community minded.