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Māori Language Week: Warrant Officer Kathleen Nikau-Tootell

Warrant Officer Kathleen Nikau-Tootell has been involved and committed to promote all aspects of the Māori Culture at all levels since she joined the Air Force in 1988.

15 September, 2022

From deployments and commemorations, to kapahaka and everyday teachings of te ao Māori, Kathy plays a vital role in engaging different cultures and helping shape the identity of those who serve in our forces.

"Ko Kathleen Nikau-Tootell toku ingoa. He wahine Māori ahau. He aviator ahau. He māmā ahau. He hoa rangatira ahau. He G-Ma ahau. I am a Māori woman. I am in the Air Force. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a Gran Mā. 

He uri ahau no Waikato-Tainui no Ngapuhinui. I am a descendant from the Waikato-Tainui Iwi and Ngapuhinui Iwi (Northland). He Kaitohutohu Māori ahau ki te Tumu Whakarae o Te Ope Kātua o Aotearoa. I am currently serving as the NZDF Cultural Advisor to the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force.

I have been involved and committed at all levels in the New Zealand Defence Force to promote all aspects of the Māori Culture since I joined the Air Force in 1988 as a Motor Transport Driver/Aviation Fuel Specialist. From grassroots kapahaka at base level, to teaching kapahaka at Riverhead and Trentham Primary Schools, I’ve been lucky enough to have a range of experiences. I’ve been on deployments in Bougainville and Timor Leste as well as led an NZDF Cultural Team overseas to attend commemorations of significance, and at times, honoured to escort the backbone of our Defence Force, our beloved veterans. 

Warrant Officer Kathleen Nikau-Tootell

Our New Zealand culture, the Māori culture, is the platform that we have used to celebrate and promote our uniqueness on the international world stage.

It has been and is a privilege to nurture the next generation of leaders, to ignite their hunger and desire in Te Ao Māori, and to engage all ethnicities into our networked force and cultural environment.

Our most important resource are our people and we have seen on many occasions, more notably on deployed operations, that the Māori cultural component provides us with the unique ability to engage with different cultures and is a vital part of what makes us an effective force. Our organisational pride and operational effectiveness both in New Zealand and overseas is integral to us, our identity and who we are.

My current role, although varied in its outputs, has several layers and runs deep, however my anchors, which keep me grounded, are to ensure that the NZDF complies with Government legislation and commits to the Principals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

The use and understanding of Māori concepts including kawa, tikanga, manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga will strengthen our social license to operate with Māori in our local communities across our bases and camps.  These mutual benefits then contribute to the well-being not only of our Defence Force iwi, but also to all New Zealanders.

My focus is to ensure cultural safety for our iwi, to highlight cultural pathways and to afford cultural visibility so that our people have the knowledge and experience to ensure cultural intelligence in all we do.

Ko to rourou ko taku rourou ka ora ai te Iwi - With your contribution and mine together, our people will be served."