After more than 50-years of services to Māori and the community, Aroha Reriti-Crofts has been named a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She raised 4 children on her own and joined the Māori Women's Welfare League because she wanted to be more than a housewife.
She is one of the Māori Women's Welfare League pioneering women who wanted to get out of the kitchen. Now her efforts in giving women a voice have paid off.
Dame Aroha says, "I am very happy because I am the recipient of the honour but the honour belongs to all of us.
"It has meant a lot of excitement and joy not only for my whānau but my hapū and iwi, so the excitement has been soaring throughout the country, even my family overseas - everyone is excited."
In the early years, there was no group that could match the strength of the welfare league when it came to standing up for the welfare of women and their children, the voice for Māori families. But is it still the same? Dame Aroha exclaims, "No. There need to be a lot more changes out there for wahine Māori but, unfortunately, no one is listening."
"It will change, and it has to change."
The technology-driven world today has its challenges for Aroha.
"[I'm] not very good at it and I have lots of women teaching me how to use it."
But nothing can compare with the memories of yesteryear to reconnect lives in a world of turmoil. Aroha recalls, "The first one I can think of is when I was seven years old the first ship home with the Māori Battalion, The Dominion. I remember them coming off that ship. There were hundreds of us on the wharf welcoming them home from World War II. That was my first precious memory.[as well as] getting my school C, being accredited UE joining the Maori Women's Welfare League and being educated in it."
Dame Aroha also pays tribute to the work the MWWL has fought for and especially to those who have died.