Social entrepreneur Dame Georgina Kirby has died

By Te Ao - Māori News

Māori leader Ripeka Evans today saluted the life of Dame Georgina Kirby with a tweet hashtag #endofanera

“Deeply saddened at the passing of a feisty fabulous Mana Wahine this morning,” Evans wrote.

“Georgie will be affectionately remembered for her many deeds including establishing the Maori Women’ s Development Fund and with Dame Elizabeth Murchie “Rapuora” a visionary piece of action research by, for and with Maori women 40 years ago.

“She belonged to a class of past presidents of the Maori Women’s Welfare League of the same ilk as Dame Mira Szaszy – leaders that truly honoured and respect Mana Wahine.

“Soar with angels Georgie, Brian will be at the gates to partner you as you dance and paint your way around the Hine-Ahu-One menagerie. #endofanera

The respected Ngāti Kahungunu social entrepreneur died in hospital this morning at 85.

Helping wāhine

Kirby was known for her advocacy in a variety of fields including forming Māori Women's Development Incorporated to help Māori women who could not obtain loan grants. She secured a $250,000 seed grant from the Department of Māori Affairs Mana enterprise loan scheme to set up the fund, which today has more than $4 million in assets and has helped hundreds of wāhine into businesses through loans, training programmes and mentoring.

She was president of the Māori Women's Welfare League from 1983 to 1987, launching both stop smoking and weight reduction campaigns as part of the league’s Decade for Health programme. Later, as a trustee of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, she formed the first Te Kohanga National trust with Sir Graham Latimer and Sir John Bennett.

From 1983-86, she was Commissioner of New Zealand at the World Expo. I

n 1984, Kirby launched the Rapuora Māori Women’s Health Survey.

In the following year, she established Whare Rapuora Health and Wellness Clinics throughout New Zealand. She was the founder and director trustee of the Māori Women’s Development Fund from 1987.

Māori housing

In 1988 Kirby managed a Māori housing survey in Auckland and coordinated a Māori housing programme with Tamaki Makaurau Māori Women’s Welfare League in 1989. In 1992 she initiated the economic base for Auckland Māori Women’s Welfare League Region and was Māori Women Trade Delegate to Hawaii.

 In 1993, Kirby introduced the concept of gender representation in Parliament; the paper was prepared with Marilyn Waring and Jocelyn Fish. In the same year she presented a submission on gender representation to Parliament.

Kirby conducted many seminars and courses on economics and Māori women’s development, as well as organising conferences and helping to establish economic bases for Māori women’s initiatives.

She was one of 16 prominent wāhine who made the Mana Wāhine claim at the Waitangi Tribunal in 1993, which is finally being heard this year.  

The inquiry is examining the inherent mana and iho of ngā wāhine Māori; the systemic discrimination, deprivation and inequities experienced by wāhine Māori; and the extent to which the Crown’s conduct in this respect had been, and is, Treaty non-compliant.

Advocate and leader

She helped establish the Te Taumata Art Gallery in Auckland and was a trustee of the Māori Education Fund, Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, NZ Women's Refuge Foundation, NZ Māori Artists and Writers’ Society Ngā Puna Waihanga (and national secretary 1973-84); and Te Manuka Film Trust in Wellington. She was also a JP. Kirby had also been Secretary of Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Tamaki Association Auckland (1976), Chairperson of Tu Tangata Whanau Committee, Auckland (1980), New Zealand Representative at the Indigenous Conference in Canberra, Australia (1981), Chairperson of the Tamaki Core Management in Auckland (1982), New Zealand Representative at the Indigenous Conference in Oregon U.S.A. (1984), Chairperson Ngāti Kahungunu Runanga, Auckland, Member of the Monitoring Group Bill of Rights, and Chairperson of the Māori Caucus on Family Violence in Wellington (1987).

Kirby was born in 1936 at Horohoro, near Rotorua, the eldest of 11 children. She attended Horohoro School, Rotorua High School, and the University of Auckland.  She was a junior assistant teacher at Whakarewarewa School from 1953 to 1954, a toll operator from 1955 to 1956, and a training officer from 1956 to 1963 with the New Zealand Post Office where her late husband Brian also worked. She later ran a superette in Mt Eden and a coffee house in Queen Street, Auckland, for nine years with her husband.

In 1977 she studied arts administration at the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea and the Aboriginal Arts Board in Sydney, Australia.

In the 1989 New Year Honours, Kirby was appointed a Companion of the Queen's Service Order for community service.[6] In 1993, she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal. In the 1994 Queen's Birthday Honours, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to Māori.

The respected kuia will be taken tomorrow to Te Māhurehure Marae in Point Chevalier, where her funeral service will be held at 10am Monday.