Tīwhanawhana Trust

2001 –

Tīwhanawhana Trust

2001 –

Theme: Māori

This essay written by Elizabeth Kerekere was published online in Women together: a history of women's organisations in New Zealand in 2019.

In 1998, Elizabeth Kerekere and her partner, Alofa Aiono, attended the Gay Games in Amsterdam. During the opening ceremony, Elizabeth decided to take a large delegation to the next Gay Games in Sydney in 2002. On returning to Wellington, Elizabeth reinvigorated Team Wellington and became its co-chair. She ran a weekly lotto fund-raiser for 3½ years to ensure representation of Māori, Pacific and low income lesbians. She also established the Purple Ferns, a lesbian softball team composed predominantly of Māori, with Pacific and Pākehā lesbians. This subsequently morphed into a track and field team for the Gay Games, Chicago 2006; a badminton team for the OutGames, Montreal 2006; and event speakers for the Gay Games, Cleveland 2010.

Wanting to showcase Māori culture on an international LGBTIQ stage, Elizabeth decided to launch a new organisation, Tīwhanawhana, in time for the Sydney Gay Games. In late 2001, she gained support from Tī Kouka, a trust for Māori women performers. Parekotuku Moore helped with administration, and Dale Ferris and Rapai Te Hau became tutors. Although the group remained open to ‘all takatāpui, their whānau and friends’, this leadership ensured that a founding principle of the group was Mana Wāhine – the strength and leadership of Māori women as critical to whānau health and development.

From its inception, Tīwhanawhana aimed to uplift the mana of takatāpui both through Māori language and culture, and by advocating for takatāpui rights, health and well-being. Its vision, ‘Tīwhanawhana ai he kahukura i te rangi – a rainbow is forming in the sky’, was formalised when Tīwhanawhana Trust became a legal entity in 2007.  This vision spoke to leadership, cultural values and inclusiveness of all people with diverse gender identities, sexualities and sex characteristics. Tīwhanawhana’s goals were to ‘tell our stories, build our communities and leave a legacy’.

Despite having only a small board and no government funding, Tīwhanawhana created considerable credibility and influence through relationship-building. By the mid-2000s, Kevin Haunui was running the weekly kapa haka group in Wellington and leading the cultural and archival work, while Elizabeth was leading the political work (working from Gisborne from 2009). This included identity, health and well-being, mental health, youth development, trans and intersex rights, education, suicide prevention, violence prevention, and the National Rainbow Strategy. Her takatāpui resources were being used extensively in Rainbow communities, health settings and gender and sexuality studies. Together, Elizabeth and Kevin were leading work in research, indigenous human rights and international outreach. Collectively, Tīwhanawhana was helping to weave takatāpui, whanau and Rainbow communities together, and was looking forward to celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021.

Elizabeth Kerekere [1]

Whānau a Kai, Ngāti Oneone, Te Aitanga a Māhaki 


[1] Founder/Chair, Tīwhanawhana Trust.

Published sources

Kerekere, Elizabeth, Takatāpui: part of the whānau, Tīwhanawhana Trust and Mental Health Foundation, Auckland, 2015

Kerekere, Elizabeth, Growing up takatāpui: whānau journeys, Tīwhanawhana Trust and RainbowYOUTH, Auckland, 2017

Kerekere, Elizabeth, Part of the whānau: the emergence of takatāpui identity – He whāriki takatāpui (PhD thesis, School of Māori Studies, Victoria University of Wellington), Tīwhanawhana Trust, Wellington, 2017

Further sources

Tīwhanawhana website: www.tiwhanawhana.com

Takatāpui resource hub: www.takatapui.nz

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