Georgina Kamiria ‘Teoti’ Smith Kirby

Ngāti Kahungunu

1936 -

Georgina Kirby was born in Horohoro, near Rotorua, and was educated at Horohoro Māori School, Rotorua High School and Auckland University. She worked as a junior assistant teacher at Whakarewarewa School from 1953-54, was a toll operator from 1955-56, and was a training officer from 1956-63 with the New Zealand Post Office. From 1964-66, she was a receptionist in Orewa. She also ran a superette in Mt Eden and a coffee house in Queen Street, Auckland, for nine years with her husband, Brian Kirby. In 1977 she studied Art Administration and Training with the National Arts School in Papua New Guinea and the Aboriginal Arts Board in Sydney, Australia. She has been a member of the Māori Women’s Welfare League since 1976 and was National President from As a Trustee of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, she formed the first Te Kohanga National trust with Sir Graham Latimer and Sir John Bennett. From 1983-86, she was appointed Commissioner of New Zealand at the World Expo. In 1984, Kirby launched the Rapuora Māori Women’s Health Survey. In the following year she established Whare Rapuora Health and Wellness Clinics throughout New Zealand. She was founder and has been Director Trustee of the Māori Women’s Development Fund since 1987. In 1988 Kirby managed a Māori Housing Survey in Auckland and coordinated a Māori Housing Programme with Tamaki Makaurau Māori Women’s Welfare League in 1989. In 1992 she initiated the economic base for Auckland Māori Women’s Welfare League Region and was Māori Women Trade Delegate to Hawaii. In 1993, Kirby introduced the concept gender representation in Parliament; the paper was prepared with Marilyn Waring and Jocelyn Fish. In the same year she presented a submission on gender representation to Parliament. Kirby has conducted numerous seminars and courses on economics and Māori women’s development, as well as organising conferences and helping to establish economic bases for Māori women’s initiatives.

Kirby has had an active role in the arts. She was National Secretary of the NZ Māori Artists and Writers’ Society (Nga Puna Waihanga) from 1973-84. In 1984 she launched the Women’s Aboriginal Arts Festival in Adelaide, Australia, and in 1987 was the Director of the Commonwealth Festival of Arts, in Auckland. She was the Curator for the Contemporary Māori Art Exhibit, was Guest Speaker for the South Pacific Environment Week, and was Guest of the Great London Fund for the Blind at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1988. In 1990 she was the Managing Director of Te Koanga Festival in Auckland. In the following year, she helped establish Te Taumata Art Gallery in Auckland. In 1992 she was a delegate at the Māori Art Exhibition launched in San Diego U.S.A, and in the same year was a Trustee for the Te Manuka Film Trust in Wellington.

She has represented New Zealand and presented papers on women’s issues and indigenous issues at many overseas conferences. As a representative of New Zealand, she was an official at the 1984 ESCAP Regional Conference in Japan, the UN Indigenous Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Multi Regional Beyond Nairobi Project. She was one of twelve International Women on an eight-week tour of eighteen States in U.S.A. She participated in the UN “End of Women’s Decade Conference” in Nairobi in 1985. In 1986 she was a New Zealand representative at the Commonwealth Symposium and chaired the South Pacific Regional Liaison Unit in Apia, Samoa. From 1990-1995 Kirby was Māori Women’s Welfare League Māori Netball Delegate to Hawaii, South Pacific, Australia and England.

Kirby is a Trustee of many organisations including the Māori Education Fund, Te Kohanga Reo National Trust, and NZ Women’s Refuge Foundation. As a member of the Māori Affairs Board, Kirby has been Secretary of Ngāti Kahungunu Ki Tamaki Association Auckland (1976), Chairperson of Tu Tangata Whanau Committee, Auckland (1980), New Zealand Representative at the Indigenous Conference in Canberra, Australia (1981), Chairperson of the Tamaki Core Management in Auckland (1982), New Zealand Representative at the Indigenous Conference in Oregon U.S.A. (1984), Chairperson Ngāti Kahungunu Runanga, Auckland, Member of the Monitoring Group Bill of Rights, and Chairperson of the Māori Caucus on Family Violence in Wellington (1987).

Her church involvements have included being President of the Young Wives Group of St Chads Anglican church in Orewa (1963), membership of the Mothers’ Union Northern Region, and member of the Holy Sepulchre Church Tatai Hono Marae in Auckland (1976-1992). In 1995 she established and was a patron of Toi Māori Manukau in South Auckland.

In 1981 Kirby was appointed a JP and was awarded the QSO in 1989. She received the 1990 Commemoration Medal. In 1994 she was awarded DBE (Dameship of the British Empire). She is recognised Te Kahurangi by Manuatai Marae Nuhaka and Te Kahurangi by Rongomaipapa Marae Rotorua. Kirby has provided some of the annotations below which can be found in quotation.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence from Dame Georgina Kirby 10 Sept. 1998.
  • "Georgina Kirby." Māori Sovereignty: The Māori Perspective. Hineani Melbourne. Auckland, N.Z.: Hodder Moa Beckett, 1995. 71-72.
  • Who’s Who in New Zealand. Twelfth Ed. Ed. Max Lambert. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1991. 346-347.


  • "Inner Privilege." Koru: The New Zealand Māori Artists and Writers’ Annual Magazine 1 (1976). n.pag.
  • The poet writes of her reverence for Rangi, Papa and Mount Taranaki.
  • "Māori Women’s Welfare League Executive Meets the People." Tu Tangata 15 (1984): 26-27.
  • This was at the launch of the Rapuora Report. Kirby writes: ‘Māori Women’s perception of health is a significant milestone for the League and Māori life and uplifts our mana as Tangata whenua’.
  • "The Vital Breath." ibid. Rpt. in Countless Signs: The New Zealand Landscape in Literature. Comp. Trudie McNaughton. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed Methuen, 1986. 152.
  • As she departs from Parihaka, the speaker reflects on the innumerable wonders of Taranaki.
  • "Cultural Identity and Health." Annual Journal - NZ Society for Music Therapy (1990): 21-23.
  • Lists types of waiata.
  • Whataki/Foreword. Awhina Mai Ahau Ki Te Whakakaha I Ahau/Help Me To Strengthen Myself. Written and translated by Tawini Rangihau, Ropata Pouwhare and Dr Paparangi Reid. Illustrated by Leanne Mataa. [Paraparaumu, N.Z.]: Produced by Wene Macleod and Judith Lyon of the Kapiti and Hongoeka branches of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, 1990. n.pag.
  • A brief congratulatory note in Māori and English commending the Kapiti and Hongoeka Branches of the Māori Women’s Welfare League for producing this book. Kirby writes that it ‘deals frankly with the subject of self esteem.... in an objective and scientific manner’.
  • "Georgina Kamiria Kirby." Liberating Learning : Women as Facilitators of Learning. Comp. Judith Manchester, Anne O’Rourke. Wellington, N.Z., : J. Manchester : A. O’Rourke, 1993. 83.
  • Kirby contributed to this publication with a genealogical summary. She states: ‘is it any wonder that destiny and genealogy carry the promise of a pathway for future life? This promise assumes the areas of influence, of challenge, knowledge and the responsibility of mana’.
  • "Mana Wahine". Vision Aotearoa: Kaupapa New Zealand. Ed. Witi Ihimaera. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams, 1994. 193.
  • Marie Bell, Vicki Buck, Eddie Durie et al, in conversation with Rosalie Capper and Amy Brown.
  • "Georgina Kirby." Māori Sovereignty: The Māori Perspective. Interview by Hineani Melbourne. Auckland, N.Z.: Hodder Moa Beckett, 1995. 71-77..
  • A discussion on Māori sovereignty with Hineani Melbourne.
  • Other

  • "Te Taroi Ceremony." Koru: The New Zealand Māori Artists and Writers’ Annual Magazine. Ed. Haare Williams. 2 (1978): 15.
  • Kirby writes of the special ceremony held at the old courthouse in Taupo which confirmed the newly appointed patrons of the Māori Artists and Writers’ Society; these included Rangimarie Hetet, John Rangihau and Te Wiremu Parker.
  • "Rehua." Koru: The New Zealand Māori Artists and Writers’ Annual Magazine. Ed. Haare Williams. 2 (1978): 15.
  • Kirby describes how Rehua was carved from a piece of manuka during the trip to a Māori Artists and Writers’ Conference. She tells of the ceremony when Rehua was presented to the tangata whenua.
  • He Kete Kohikohinga (How-to-do-things Resource Kit) 1984. No further details.
  • This was a kit compiled by Kirby for Māori Women’s Welfare League members ‘on how to write proposals and reports.’ Kirby adds: ‘League members must continue to make your work visible as active agents of development and change’.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "The Role of Museums in Interpreting Culture." AGMANZ Journal 19.2 (1988): 15-16.
  • The text of Kirby’s address to the AGMANZ 40th Birthday Conference held from 28-29 April 1988. In examining the role of museums in interpreting culture, Kirby asserts that museums should not be interpreting Māori culture but should be presenting the tribal history agreed upon and gathered by the tribal elders of New Zealand. Kirby critiques the way Te Māori was exhibited in New Zealand and questions why in a country that possesses such a huge number of Māori taonga, so few Māori are assuming prominent roles in museums, galleries and written histories. Kirby also reminds AGMANZ members of their responsibility to adhere to Treaty of Waitangi principles in the running of museums and galleries.
  • "Māori Women and Economic Development: Address to The Pacific Environmental Conference, Commonwealth Institute, London, October 1988." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 17 (1989): 8-9.
  • Kirby writes: ‘Economic empowerment was necessary for Māori women to take positions of leadership in business enterprises and display to the community at large the competencies and entrepreneurial skills that kept hundreds of Marae functioning successfully.’
  • Poetry

  • "Te Tohu o te Tangata." Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5: Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 253.
  • ‘A tribute to the oneness between earth, sky, moon, water, trees, rain, birds and man.’
  • "Te Whakaruruhau." Te Ao Mārama: Contemporary Māori Writing. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 5: Te Torino: The Spiral. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1996. 253.
  • ‘Written as a personal address to the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council.’
  • Reviews

  • “Maranga Mai.” Te Kaea 4 (1980): 31. A review of the performance of “Maranga Mai” at the Måori Artists and Writers’ Conference.
  • A review of the performance of "Maranga Mai" at the Māori Artists and Writers’ Conference.


  • Russell, Marcia. "Into the Jaws of Politics." Listener & TV Times 6 Aug. 1990: 22-23.
  • Gregory, Paul. "Goodwill Led to Royal Award." Dominion 19 May 1989: 9.
  • "Fortieth Birthday Conference April 28-29th 1988." AGMANZ Journal 19.2 (1988): 11.
  • "Te Ropu Wahine Toko I Te Ora Continues to Provide Basics." Tu Tangata 25 (1985): 2-7.
  • As National President of Māori Women’s Welfare League from 1983-?, Kirby articulates some of the focuses of the League such as the housing, family, and health needs of the Māori. She attributes the Māori urban migration and resulting disruption of the Māori whanau ‘as the main culprit’ of contemporary Māori problems.
  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox, 1991. 16, 28, 37.
  • McNaughton, Trudie. "Biographical Notes and Selected Bibliography." Countless Signs: The New Zealand Landscape in Literature. Comp. Trudie McNaughton. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed Methuen, 1986. 371.