June 03, 2019
Dame Areta Kopu leads honours league table
Areta Koopu sat on the review committee that recommended the end of making people knights and dames – and now she has been made a dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
“That was what all the submissions were saying – people wanted an end to titular honours. So we came up with the New Zealand Order of Merit,” she says.
“One of the things I was pleased about was Philip O’Shea designed these wonderful medals, which are so New Zealand. I was hoping for one, they were so beautiful, but I didn’t expect this one.”
She’s the fifth past president of the Maori Women’s Welfare League to receive the honour, following in the footsteps of Dames Whina Cooper, Mira Szaszy, Georgina Kirby and June Mariu.
Dame Areta credits the league for giving her a national role, which she embraced during her term, serving on bodied like the honours review committee, and then went on to become a Human Rights Commissioners and a member of the Waitangi Tribunal.
From Aitanga a Hauiti and raised in Whangara and Gisborne, the 78-year-old divides her time between Auckland and Whangara, where she still plays a major role in her marae.
As league president she set up a parenting programme, and she sees it as a lost opportunity that it was not able to continue, given the organisations reach into communities across the nation.
She says a highlight of her service has been watching the creation of kohanga reo and the regeneration of the Maori language.
“Today what I love is everybody making use of words in Maori. When I look at my grandchildren, they talk Maori among themselves, they are in a Maori school, they have Maori friends.”
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