In the early 1990s, Myra was appointed the first manager of Whakatu Māori Women’s Welfare League (later Whakatu Te Korowai Manaakitanga Trust) with a focus on helping young Māori women and children.
Myra Dick (Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, Kāi Tahu) has been committed to helping wahine Māori for many years and now despite officially being ‘retired’ that kaupapa continues.
Growing up in the deep south in a large whānau has many advantages, and when you’re the seventh child of sixteen you learn how to look after others, especially younger children. This kaupapa became a part and parcel of who Myra is, as her long involvement with The Māori Women’s Welfare League demonstrates. In the early 1990s, Myra was appointed the first manager of Whakatu Māori Women’s Welfare League (later Whakatu Te Korowai Manaakitanga Trust) with a focus on helping young Māori women and children. Back then kaupapa Māori organisations had to prove themselves, a lot more so than today, and build trust with government departments by showing that they could deliver positive outcomes and results. Starting with one temporary staff member Myra set out to do that and by the time of her retirement she’d seen her team grow to 16 staff, and the acceptance of their work also grow.
The Trust offers support in many ways, from polytechnic courses to mentors, all designed to help the women seeking support to find their feet and realise that there ar pathways that lead to better futures.
One major focus for Myra and her mahi with whānau was on teaching about budgeting and how to save and manage money. “Often difficult situations can be worse if there are also money issues. Learning to control the budget even on modest incomes creates feelings of empowerment and makes major differences for all members of a whānau” says Myra. “Even if $5.00 can be saved regularly it can grow to a good sum over time and that can create choices for people.”
Having this experience with teaching about budgeting gave Myra great insight into the role of saving as a motivator for change. When Ngāi Tahu introduced Whai Rawa, Myra was quick to join and ensure her whānau did too. “Whai Rawa is a great initiative that nurtures the young and creates benefits for the mokopuna and generations to come whether it be via education, home buying or retirement. It makes me so proud to be Ngāi Tahu”.
Myra hasn’t utilised her Whai Rawa savings as yet. “ I may use them for a special trip but I would also get great satisfaction from using my money to help my whānau with their education or buying a first home. It’s great to have that choice.”
Myra also has high praise for the Kaumātua Grants. “It’s lovely for our iwi to do this because it shows respect for our elders” and gives something without anybody having to ask.”