Sowing the seeds of the next generation

19 March 2024

Zoe Witika-Hawke (Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Paoa) and Keri Milich (Ngāpuhi) are two wāhine making a big impact, wrapping their support around whānau to help tamariki thrive.

From a young age, Zoe Witika-Hawke knew that helping young māmā was her calling.

“I’m the daughter of a teenage mother, twice over. I have my older brother and then there’s me. My māmā was very much a ‘connected to the ’ type of person, even though she grew up in state care. Often she would kōrero about her experiences as a young māmā, and the judgement that she was feeling.”

“That’s what influenced my thinking. It’s why I’m doing this mahi, and continue to do this mahi.”

Zoe is the Chief Executive of E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services, an organisation providing whānau-based health and social support to , hapū māmā and their tamariki. It supports 200 families from Tāmaki Makaurau.

“The type of support we provide is wide ranging – anything from supporting whānau with kai and their , through to regular for māmā, partners and whānau tautoko.”

Connecting to tūpuna

With funding from Tākai, E Tipu E Rea Whānau Services supports young parents to become stronger in their identity. Teaching parenting helps whānau rewrite their own narrative.

Keri Milich is the tūpuna parenting lead at E Tipu E Rea Whānau. Her role is to facilitate wānanga, train kaimahi and develop resources to help young parents build their understanding of traditional Māori parenting practices.

“Our tūpuna were gentle, loving, caring and patient. And our pāpā and our māmā parented together with no defined roles. It was a shared process,” says Keri.

“For whānau to learn really supports their thinking and reclaiming of who they are.”

Keeping it real

Both Zoe and Keri are both proud māmā, and carry through the lessons they are teaching others into their home life.

Keri has two daughters, aged 18 and 11 years old, while Zoe has two boys, 14 and 11.

“My 14-year-old is fully involved in kapa haka at the moment, it’s all about our whakapapa, tūpuna knowledge and celebrating who we are as Māori,” says Zoe.

Meanwhile Keri’s 11-year-old daughter is helping her to weave a panel for their marae.

“She’s been part of it since the beginning. It’s really important to value and empower our tamariki to be part of this kaupapa.”

“Now, she can be proud to be part of the tukutuku, and she’ll be up on the walls of our marae for years to come.”

While trying their best to raise their tamariki, Zoe and Keri say it’s important to be open and transparent about one thing – they don’t always get it right.

We are trying our best. It’s important to acknowledge that we’re not perfect – nobody is. What matters is we are doing the best we can.


Zoe agrees.

“We all have struggles when raising our tamariki. But, if we keep looking to our tūpuna we can find strength. They are part of us, and what we know for sure is that they were incredible parents.”

Do you have a great idea?

This community project was made possible with support from the Tākai Local Initiative Fund. Get in touch if you have a great idea to make positive change for whānau in your community.

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