Janet Hetaraka was born in Dunedin, the youngest of eight children born to Edna and George Simon. She was educated at Mornington Primary School (Dunedin), Linwood North Primary School, Linwood Intermediate and Avonside Girls’ High School (Christchurch). Her career in journalism began when she gained a cadetship on the Christchurch Star in 1974. The following year, she received the Rod Lindsay Memorial Award for best feature writer (cadet) from the New Zealand Journalists’ Union. In the late 1970s, Janet became the Bay of Islands correspondent for the Northern Advocate; she covered Waitangi Days, cultural events, and Māori issues. She left full-time journalism for a few years and did freelance work while raising her children and stepchildren. In 1986, she returned to full-time reporting with the Northern Advocate and specialised in Māori affairs, issues of social justice and feature writing. During this time, the late Sir James Henare was a mentor and “trusty guide” for Janet; when he died in 1989, she wrote a full front-page obituary and report of the tangi. In 1990, she joined the Housing Corporation as Tenancy Bond Manager/Mediator and later became Tenancy Mediator with the new Ministry of Housing, Tenancy Services. She served as New Zealand representative on the editorial board of Herald of the South from 1990-2004.
Janet is a supporter of various Māori art forms from kapa haka to whakairo and is involved in Ngāi Tahu affairs in Tai Tokerau. Her non-fiction articles and photographs have appeared in newspapers and Herald of the South under the following names: Janet Simon, Janet Fa’ata’ape, and Janet Hetaraka. Janet states: “I write poetry for fun and enjoy the literary pursuits of other whanau members and especially my mokopuna who are learning to be great writers and story tellers.”
- Correspondence from Janet Hetaraka, 12 Nov. 1992 and 18 June 2004.
- "He Pakiaka." Tu Tangata 31 (1986): 32-34.
- Hetaraka describes the opening of He Pakiaka, the first carved meeting house located in a New Zealand embassy overseas. This is located in the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing and was officially opened by then Prime Minister, David Lange in 1986. The meeting house was carved by Pakariki Harrison and Te Warihi Wallace Hetaraka.
- "Mihipeka - Telling her Story from the Heart." Northern Advocate 5 May 1990: 2.
- "Making Sense of Belonging." Northern Advocate 22 Sept. 1990: 25.