February 2024

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Keri Opai is bidding us haere ra after an incredible four years as Pou Tikanga o Tui Ora!

Late last year we were sad to hear from our Chief Executive Alana Ruakere that our esteemed Pou Tikanga Keri Opai would be leaving the organisation. The time has come, so we caught up with him before he said haere ra and had a kōrero!

So here we are at the end Keri, how does it feel?

A little bit weird and a bit unreal to he honest, but i’m looking forward to a good break, and to whatever new adventure approaches. I have an idea of what that might be but I don’t want to share just yet. It’s an iwi thing that might or might not happen. I’ve had quite a few offers to go and do various things but the next two weeks are about the beach and PlayStation for me!

Another book on the horizon maybe....?

Another something on the horizon but I don’t know what it is yet. I’ve been writing a bit about the relationship between me and my mentor, thinking about the relationship we’ve had over a lifetime. I’m not sure if that’s a book for the county or one for Taranaki. I’ll write it first and then I’ll know.

Any memorable moments from your time here?

I think overall it’s just a privilege to work at Tui Ora, a privilege to work with whānau an a privilege to work with kaimahi. Kaimahi are certainly the people I’ll miss. Tui Ora has a great kaupapa so stick at it. Look after our whānau, those are my parting words!”

What’s been your favourite part of the mahi?

The years I spent doing the tohu was a kaupapa that really stood out. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with it but I’m one of those people who when given a task, I want to put my blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul into it and complete it. I’ll feel a bit stink if I don’t. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the thinking behind the teaching of the reo and tikanga, getting it so that kaimahi can go from not knowing a hell of a lot to knowing a bit more, helping out with the Te Poumaomao course, teaching waiata, reo, and conducting pōwhiri. Really just attempting to make it feel like an authentically kaupapa Māori organisation has been a highlight. I think coming from my perspective it’s come a long way. I would encourage that all that great stuff keeps up. People keep learning reo and tikanga. It’s really important that kaimahi to attend those and participate fully.

Do you have anything else to say?

I think looking back on this adventure I knew I’d give it four or five years. It’s coming up to four years but it was just time to move on. Part of that was that I was getting a bit sick quite often and I thought that meant that it must be time for a change or a reset. I’m a guy that means what he says and says what he means. There’s no point in talking about hauora and not looking after your own. I would encourage kaimahi to look after themselves, some of the work we do is hard emotionally and mentally, so take some time out when you need it. Acknowledge the personal challenges in your life and remember to have joy. I do encourage people to learn their pepeha, whakapapa, tea o Māori, wherever they fit into that, Māori, Pakeha, or whatever. That’s essential for working at a kaupapa Māori organisation.

Poroaki

As is customary for everyone that leaves Tui Ora, we were privileged to host a poroaki for Keri on January 26 mark his time here. Around 40 of our kaimahi were in attendance at the Novotel to say haere ra. In typical Keri fashion, the mood was light and everyone was at ease as proceedings began. Keri didn’t have much planned for us so asked us to simply go around the seated circle one by one and say anything we wanted to say, with no pressure or obligations to speak.

Our kaimahi certainly rose to the occasion, sharing laughs, kōrero, memories and even frustrations (mainly with the fact that Keri was leaving!) with the roopu. Kaimahi made no secret of the big shoes that Keri leaves to fill, and that Tui Ora will not be the same without his presence. There were also a few powerful moments where some shared beautiful waiata, mighty haka, and shed tears. As we completed the circle Alana wrapped up the kōrero for kaimahi by thanking Keri for his commitment to our organisation, kaupapa, and the many years of friendship shown to her dad, the late great Dr. Tony Ruakere. Keri then received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a koha which was, of course, a new watch!

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