For those of us who have known them and their outstanding dedication for the safety of women and children, it came as no surprise to hear that Ruahine Albert (Roni to many) and Ariana Simpson have received the Queen's Service Medal for their work against domestic violence that has benefited not only the broader community but also Maori whanau.

What did come as a surprise however was how long it took before they were honoured.

Ruahine (Tuwharetoa and Tainui descent) has livedmost of her life in Waikato and in 1987 became a foundation member of Te Whakaruruhau Maori Women's Refuge. It was the vision of women from the then Maori Women's Centre to establish a Refuge service for (and by) Maori women in the Waikato region.

Te Whakaruruhau opened in 1988 as the very first Maori Women's Refuge in Aotearoa and has been a leading light and ground-breaking service ever since.


Over the past 23 years Te Whakaruruhau's doors have been open 24/7, 365 days a year. Steering this magnificent service, Ruahine has campaigned the right of women and children to be safe in their homes, for adequate shelter, food, health care and sustainable income. She has worked at local, regional and national level to advocate for government and community services to be more approachable and responsive to victims of violence.

Her energy has been channelled to changing the status quo when it has worked against the best interest of people in her community. This remarkable woman is admired across the country for her tenacity, dynamism and dedication which is coupled with a simpleness, humility and humour that touches all who meet her.

Ariana, who comes from Whakatane (Ngati Awa and Te Whanau Apanui descent), has spent 25 years in the Waikato and is a foundation member of Te Whakaruruhau Maori Women's Refuge.

Ariana is intimately aware of the needs of battered women and their whanau in this region. She is the best and most astute advocate for battered women and children in this country.

Her clarity on the multi-layered forms of oppression they suffer at the hands of those who batter and then the often inadequate responses of the state, government departments and community is insightful and often profound.

Ariana has a strong and innate sense of injustice and often has the appearance of looking inward while she processes the impact of a decision she or others are making upon the lives of those she works alongside.

Those who know her well have learned to take heed of that look because her insight will always have the best interest of women and children placed first, even when it may be unpopular with other people or services involved. Thousands of women have had the benefit of working alongside Ariana and for many their lives have changed for ever because of that.

The recognition they have received is without a doubt a milestone in both their lives. A national recognition of the work they have done to bring about positive change in people's lives. It is reasonable to expect that the future will hold great promises for our family, hapu and iwi with our two sisters pioneering new ways of thinking and working with our own.

Ka whawhi tonu mataou. Ake, ake, ake.