By Rosemary Rangitauira 31/03/2022

He Kai Kei Aku Ringa | Providing Food By My Own Hands

This whakataukī resonates with Phoebe Fordyce and inspires her ambition to help create meaningful change that empowers Ngāi Māori by ‘using the tools’ she has learned.

Phoebe, who affiliates to Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, is nearing the completion of her PhD in History at the University of Canterbury and is working for Te Tira Whakamātaki, a Māori Environmental not-for-profit and home of the Māori Biosecurity Network.

A policy and research analyst at Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW), Phoebe says she’s been there for two months so far.

“I really love it. They’re a really great group to work for. It’s more of a whānau which is nice. Going from doing my PhD, which is very solitary, it’s been great to be part of a group.”

The Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga descendant has already helped file two submissions on behalf of TTW: on drinking water regulations being looked at by Taumata Arowai, and the other on consultation on the Environmental Reporting Act.

Phoebe says during her research into the drinking water regulations she identified more support is needed for marae.

“Taumata Arowai is currently updating the drinking water standards which are generally fine. Except that some of the changes the agency is proposing would affect about 9,000 marae around the country. The proposal also doesn’t offer support to marae to enable them to meet standards to keep people healthy,” she says.

Phoebe is humbled to be part of TTW and to contribute to supporting the views of Ngāi Māori.

“It feels like I’m giving back. I think Te Tira Whakamātaki is doing significant mahi to help communities and the environment. I’m eager to see big changes in the way that we govern here in Aotearoa. Of course, some good steps are being made between Māori and the Crown. But Māori should automatically be included in consultation, especially when it comes to the environment.”

Phoebe reflects on history sometimes to help her compose her thinking.

She jokes that she thinks about ten ‘good mates’ who feature in her PhD thesis, and seeks their wisdom for guidance in her mahi as well as in life.

“My friends often joke with me that I name-drop The Women’s Christian Temperance Union on a first-name basis like they’re my mates. Women like Jane (Foley) and Niurangi (Pūriri) who was the mother of the MP, Hone Heke Ngapua. What stands out for me about them, is how they would always want to do the best for their people.”

Phoebe’s thesis is due to be completed this year and is entitled, “Sisters in the Work: Māori and Pākehā Women of the WCTU (1892-1918)”.

She says her love for history comes from her father, Stephen Fordyce.

“My Dad was a high school principal and spent all his free time researching and writing about the history of the Kaipara. And so I grew up going along with him to museums and being at interviews he did with people. And I loved reading. So as soon as I got to university, I was like, oh, history is so cool. I’m gonna do that,” she smiles.

Both her parents are proud of their daughter.

“My Mum (Carolyn Fordyce who’s also an educationalist) who blessed me with my whakapapa Māori (Māori genealogy) is very pleased that I’m engaging in Māoritanga, considering our links to our iwi had been disconnected due to adoption in our family. Despite that, you know we’re reconnecting slowly and I’m appreciative that I can give back through my journey now,” says Phoebe.

If you’d like to read more, check out Phoebe Fordyce’s Honours dissertation called Remembering Helen Macmillan Brown

* Photo Supplied