Death of renowned Māori community health pioneer

Waireti Walters was awarded a Queen's Service Order in 1998.
Waireti Walters was awarded a Queen's Service Order in 1998.
The National Screening Unit (NSU) would like to pay tribute to Waireti Walters QSO, a pioneering Māori community health worker and a powerful advocate for breast and cervical screening for Māori women, who died recently, aged 81.

Waireti, of Te Paatu, Ngāti Kahu, Te Aupōuri and wider Muriwhenua iwi descent, was born and raised in the far north. Her passion and drive was instrumental in establishing the role of Māori community health worker.

She was committed to wahine ora and was a key driver and supporter of Mana Wahine, a collective of Māori health providers based in the greater Wellington area.

She also helped set up health care facilities such as the whānau room at National Women’s Hospital in central Auckland and the Te Whare Rapuora health service in Glen Innes.

Known as a straight talker, Waireti is famously acknowledged for her quote “know my face before you know my cervix!”

She was an advocate for smokefree policies, sudden unexpected death in infancy prevention and many other health kaupapa. Waireti also fought for the preservation of te reo Māori, and was active in the Treaty of Waitangi claim that sought to recognise Māori rights to New Zealand's flora and fauna.

In 1998, Waireti was awarded a Queen’s Service Order for her services to the community.

She is survived by her three children and many mokopuna and great-grand mokopuna.

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Page last updated: 30 November 2015