A sign of the times

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Sergeant Whitiaira Timutimu of Ngāi Tūhoe is a Māori Responsiveness Advisor for NZ Police and the first female officer in the police force to wear a traditional moko kauae. 

“It shows women around the country that you can bring your treasures, your skills, and your cultural customs into this office," says Timutimu. 

Timutimu graduated with a bachelor's degree in teaching at the University of Waikato and was a high school teacher at Te Wharekura o Ruatoki.

The idea of getting a moko kauae first came about when she teaching at Ruatoki, although she says she didn't feel ready at the time.

Timutimu then moved on to teach at Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga, at Te Aute College and then Ngata College in Ruatoria. 

From there she moved to Gisborne to pursue a career change and in August 2005 she graduated from Police College.

Timutimu has been in the police force for thirteen years, working with rangatahi and Māori in general.

She travels the country weekly for her mahi as a Māori responsiveness advisor.

Timutimu says, “To me, you should work with your people, your community and your tribe, you need to exert that effort in order to reach a certain plateau within yourself.”

Since moving to Gisborne, Timutimu has developed a close relationship with East Coast tāmoko artist Mark Kopua of Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ngāti Ira.

 “I too thought that the time is right, she's achieved her goals, she's reached her heights and now she's reached her Hikurangi, “ says Kopua.

The design was drawn by Tamara Whenuaroa, who works alongside Kopua, who then came in to do the moko.

Timutimu says that she did not ask the police force for permission, instead she informed them what would happen and why.

With the support of her elder sister, her immediate family and her wife, Timutimu now proudly wears her moko kauae.

Timutimu says, “My thoughts are with my grandmother Te Pani Makamaka, she was the pillar of my family.  She's here, and Pāpa Api (Dr Apirana Mahuika), as well as those who have supported me over the years.”