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Journalism journey

Rahia Timutimu has been on Maori Television for over 12 years and now also works at Turanga FM as a news reader and co-host of The Breakfast Show. She talks to Matai O’Connor about how she got to this point in her life . . .

Rahia Timutimu’s passion for media and journalism started at a young age.

She remembers watching the news for the first time as a child, with her koro in Whakatāne.

“I asked him ‘why aren’t there any Māori presenters on the news?’. The only time you saw Māori was when there were negative stories about us. My koro replied ‘well, you can do something about that’.

“He believed I could. It was one of those moments when I thought to myself, yeah I can do it.”

Her final year at school was the same year Māori Television Service (MTS) was established.

“I remember bunking school to watch the opening of MTS. It was 2005, and was the only time I had ever bunked school.

“My mum came home from work and asked me how was school and I couldn’t lie, so I told her I took the day off to watch the opening of Māori Television and she said ‘what?’ and I told her ‘Mum, I honestly feel it is going to be the place I’m going to work at after university’. She said, ‘OK, so how was it?’”

That was when Rahia knew her dream of working in media would work out.

Rahia was born in Whakatane in 1986.

She attended Allandale School before going to two kura kaupapa Māori — Te Kura Kaupapa a Rohe o Ruatoki until she was nine, then her whānau moved to Ruatorea on the East Coast, where she attended Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Wai-ū o Ngāti Porou.

Rahia loved sports and decided to join every team she could.

“I honestly don’t know what drew me to sports, but I loved it.”

She remembers getting into swimming when she was 10.

“I was a terrible swimmer. I remember entering the East Coast championships with my cousins . . . We did so bad, terribly bad.

“I didn’t know you had to push off the wall and I couldn’t even dive in.

“But I joined a swimming club and every day at 6am either Mum or my Aunty Gerry would take my cousins and me to swimming training.

“We must have trained the house down, because the following year my cousins and I won all our races in our respective age groups,” Rahia said.

Not only was Rahia swimming, she was a part of the Mareikura waka ama team, training three times a week, and was also in athletics.

“I was so busy. I would finish school at 3 and we would drive to Gisborne from Rua to go to practice. We wouldn’t get home till 11, so my family decided to move to Gisborne — which in hindsight shows just how supportive my parents and brother were of me.

“It was a huge sacrifice which I’m very grateful for.”

Rahia started at Gisborne Girls’ High School in Year 12.

She remembers telling everyone that she wanted to become a prefect.

But no one, including herself, thought it would be possible as she was a new student and it had never been done before.

“I remember writing my CV and I decided to include every sports team and group I was a part of. There were many.”

Eight months after moving to Gisborne, Rahia’s father passed away in October 2003.

“Mum had to raise us by herself, she had to pay the mortgage herself. She provided for us but it was hard times.”

“Mum never once told me I couldn’t play sports. I even went to Borabora, Tahiti in 2002 and won a world championship gold medal with Mareikura waka ama.

“In 2004, I could have gone to Hawaii to compete again but I decided not to go, I didn’t want to put that added pressure on Mum.”

A week after her dad passed away Rahia got the news she was going to be a prefect for her final year at high school.

From high school she went straight to Victoria University of Wellington to study communications.

In her first media lecture there were around 300 students.

She looked around and thought “holy sh** all these students are probably after the same thing as me”.

“Seeing MTS come into existence gave Māori kids like me the opportunity to pursue a job in that field.

“In the media world it’s a lot of who you know, and I knew no one. So when MTS was established it opened up the possibility of working in a space that I naturally related to.”

She studied for two years in Wellington and then went to Auckland to finish her degree.

While she was in Auckland she thought a change of scenery would be good for her.

“I had just turned 21 and I felt like going overseas so I started looking for flights to Tahiti. I was planning on living there for a year.

“While I was looking for flights, a Seek ad popped up on the side of the screen saying Junior Sports Reporter.

“I thought wow I want to be a reporter and I love sports. I don’t know if this is a sign but I stopped looking at flights and started looking at the job description, and realised it was everything I wanted.”

Rahia applied for the job, got called to an interview in Auckland and while she was working her shift at Footlocker she received a phone call saying she had got the job and would start in two weeks.

“I knew I was starting on peanuts but I didn’t care.

“I wanted to be a reporter and it’s a job for the people, so I did it.”

Her role as a sports reporter meant she covered many major sport competitions around New Zealand and the world.

Over the years Rahia was offered jobs at TVNZ and TV3 but she didn’t take them. She would tell her bosses at Māori Television and they would make changes to her role when needed.

She ended up as a full-time presenter for the news before becoming the weekend presenter as well as a news producer.

“I just wanted to do new things and MTS gave me a lot of opportunities. A lot of people wonder why I’m loyal to that place but they helped me grow into the person I am today.”

While she was in Tahiti in 2018 covering the World Waka Ama Championships, she was four weeks pregnant.

First day on job 'didn't even feel like work'

After her son Te Aumangea Uakaiwhatu Timutimu-Keepa was born, Rahia decided Auckland was not the place she wanted to raise him.

So her family moved to Gisborne at the end of last year.

“I think it’s been the best decision coming home, they have the best puna reo here, he is surrounded by whānau, my brother moved home from Australia to be in his life.

“Mum moved home too and we are slowly doing up the house we bought back in 2003.”

She was not looking for any more work — as she was still employed part-time by MTS — but one day she got a message from Matai Smith saying he had a proposition for her.

Matai offered her a news reading position and The Breakfast Show’s co-hosting role at Turanga FM.

Her first day on the job went so well “it didn’t even feel like work”.

“I love working with Mātai and Tina Wickliffe, I’ve always looked up to them both so to work alongside them is a dream.”

Rahia says journalism has changed a lot.

“Anyone can be famous with social media, it plays such a huge role.

“I feel there has been a decline in Māori journalism because of that.

“Getting into this mahi means you are doing a service for the people.

“There are hard times where you might work 12 hours a day, but then there are great days.

“There are so many negative stories, we need to tell the positive stories but we need the people to tell those stories and understand the complexities of journalism.

“Journalists play a huge role in boosting positive stories. The more positives we see, the more positive outcomes will happen.

“If we celebrate ourselves who knows what will happen.”

Kairipoata (journalist): Rahia Timutimu has loved being a journalist and is back home in Tairawhiti working at Turanga FM, while being a mother to 18-month-old Te Aumangea Uakaiwhatu Timutimu-Keepa. Picture by Liam Clayton

  1. Vicky, Kirikiriroa says:

    Wow – awesome testimony and role-modelling for wahine Maori 👍🏿

  2. Norman Mercer says:

    Great life story of a special young person – good luck. Nana Ruth Crawford and poppa Norm xx

  3. Joy Ngaropo-Hau, Auckland says:

    Tena koe Rahia, loved your story. Nga mihi nui kia koutou e toru e mahi tahi nei

  4. Theresa Wawatai-Smith says:

    I HAVE to listen to Turanga FM on weekday mornings. If I don’t get in at least one giggle (and there’s always more than one to be had) with Matai and Rahia then generally my day seems incomplete. Parakuihi/Katakata i te Ata is pure gold, and it is because of the dynamic team of two.