Actor Rāwiri Paratene made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit

By Te Ao - Māori News

Above: Rāwiri Paratene on Te Ao with Moana in April 2021 / Supplied

One of Aotearoa's most well-known and decorated actors has added another gong to his cartulary of accolades.

Rāwiri Paratene (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa) has been appointed Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s New Years Honours List for his services to film, and theatre.

From Shortland Street to the stage and silver screen, Paratene has tread the boards for over five decades and was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2013.  

Born in Hokianga, after leaving high school he went on to become the first Māori student to graduate from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

Paratene has long advocated for the use of Te Reo Māori in schools and is a founding member of the Ngā Tamatoa Wellington chapter movement, which campaigned for the teaching of the Māori language in schools.

The father of Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, Paratene counts language learning shows 'Kōrero Mai' and 'Whānau' among his directing credits.

The 67-year-old serves on the boards of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium and Te Paepae Ataata, which funds Māori film creation.

Paratene played Koro in the 2002 smash hit Whale Rider and toured the world with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. He was an institution for millennial fans of the 1970s and 80s kids' show Playschool.

After an absence from the screen, Paratene made a comeback in the 2019 Cook Islands film 'Stranded Pearl' and the television comedy series 'Golden Boy.'

Paratene suffered a stroke in his hotel room after flying to Perth for rehearsals for a musical based on the Disney film Aladdin in 2018; in the month that followed he suffered two additional strokes which left him unable to speak and battling fatigue.

Aphasia affected his speech and ability to perform following the strokes but he returned to the stage to thank his audience for some 50 years in 2021.

Taking place in Auckland's Te Pou Theatre and Wellington's Kia Mau Festival 'Peter Paka Paratene' was Paratene's final live performance.

"It's my Swan Song and I feel good," Paratene told Te Ao with Moana.

Paratene is currently completing his Masters in Performing Arts, English, and Art History.