Rawiri Paratene

Ngā Puhi, Te Rarawa

1954 -

Rawiri Paratene was born at Motukaraka, Hokianga, and grew up in Otara. He was educated at Hillary College and went to the New Zealand Drama School in 1972 where he became the Drama School’s first Māori graduate in 1973. He joined the Mercury Theatre as an apprentice actor and in 1976 won the Māori Trustees’ Māori Writers’ Award for his play Saturday Morning. Paratene has been a member and company writer of Downstage’s theatre-in-education company, Stagestruck, and has worked at the Court, Fortune, Mercury, Downstage, Circa, and Four Seasons Theatres. Since the early 1980s, he has focused on writing and has written radio plays, television drama, comedy and documentaries, and film scripts. He was Artistic Director and Resident Writer at the Court Theatre from 1980 to 1981.

Paratene has written television scripts for Issues, More Issues, Skitz, Tele Laughs, and Laugh Inz. He has also written scripts for Country GP, Open House, Seekers, The Adventurer (England) and other dramas for the E Tipu E Rea series produced by Larry Parr. He was writer/co-writer and actor in the film Arriving Tuesday which was released in 1986-87 by the New Zealand Film commission. He co-wrote and produced Te Pahu with Merata Mita. He was writer and producer of Hikoi, and co-wrote Nga Uri Whakatupu with Larry Parr, as well as acting as producer and director. He wrote the script Kiri Te Kanawa - The Return Journey, produced by Lennox Films, and co-wrote Variations on a Theme with Riwia Brown, Hone Tuwhare and Bruce Stewart; this comprised three stories on the theme of education directed by Don Selwyn. He wrote a television film called Dead Certs which was directed by Ian Mune. In this film, Paratene played the lead role and won Best Actor award in the New Zealand Film and Television Awards in 1996.

Paratene has also written many unpublished poems. Whiria, his main writing project, has never been produced. It involves six hours of drama written with Dr Pat Hohepa in the 1980s.

He has written a documentary called Otara: The First Generation which was produced by Rhonda Kite of Airforce Digital for Inside NZ and was directed by Haunui Royal. In 1996-7 Paratene wrote the play Save Us a Place to Live which was broadcast by Radio New Zealand. The thrust of his writing is documentary work, although he would still like to write a feature film and a novel.

Paratene has won a number of awards including two Mobil Radio Awards for his first radio play Proper Channels (1980). The awards were for writing and production. In 1983 he received the Robert Burns Fellowship, and was awarded the Lifta Award for Best Writer in 1989. He was the keynote speaker for ASSITEJ Conference in Norway in 1990, and at Come Out Festival in Adelaide in 1991. He was the New Zealand delegate to the International Association of Theatre for Young People and Children- ASSITEJ, and in 1992 was appointed to the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand Short Film Fund. Paratene’s “official” family name is Peter David Broughton.

"In recent years he has completed a fellowship at England's prestigious Globe Theatre, and appeared in American comic strip movie Man Thing, and Kiwi drama Jinx Sisters. In 2008 he won a NZ Film and Television Award for best actor for starring in short film The Graffiti of Mr Tupaia. A personal highlight remains Children of the Sea, which began as a series of theatre workshops in Sri Lanka for survivors of tsunami and civil war. The play won four awards at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival.

2011 docu-drama Waitangi: What Really Happened saw Paratene playing Ngā Puhi chief Te Kemera Kaiteke, uncle to Hone Heke. Paratene has also done acting stints on soap Shortland Street, and appeared in episodes of Mataku, Duggan, Xena: Warrior Princess and TV mockumentary Love Mussel (2001). His writing work includes hit musical Blue Smoke, and radio play The Proper Channels, which won him a Mobil Radio Award. 

September 2010 saw Paratene winning acclaim for his starring role in passion project The Insatiable Moon. Paratene has been attached to the project for many years. As Metro reviewer Graham Adams put it, the actor plays a "barefoot, messianic Arthur, glowing with goodness as the self-proclaimed second son of God"; Adams called the performance convincing and compelling. Paratene went on to win the 2011 Aotearoa film award for best lead actor for his role.

At the close of 2012 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Merit, the award noting his contributions across film, television and theatre."

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation and correspondence with Rawiri Paratene, 1 Sept. 1998.
  • Into the World of Light. Eds. Witi Ihimaera and D. S. Long. Auckland, N.Z.: Heinemann, 1982. 304-305.
  • Paratene, Rawiri. "A Tribute To The Living Māori Race." Puna Wairere: Essays by Māori. Wellington, N.Z.: New Zealand Planning Council/Te Kaunihera Whakakaupapa mo Aotearoa, 1990. 81
  • .
  • https://www.nzonscreen.com/person/rawiri-paratene/biography 14 October 2016


  • "The Ten Year Plan." Mana 40 (2001): 81-84.
  • Films/Video

  • Variations on a Theme. Dir. Don Selwyn. No further details.
  • Ella Henry writes briefly about this film in her article "Location: Māori Image in Māori Hands" (Onfilm 6.5 (1989): 24-26).
  • The Legend of Pikari. No details.
  • Footrot Flats. No details.
  • The Punter. No details.
  • Rea.
  • E Tipu.
  • Laughinz.
  • "The Adventurer." 12 Episodes.
  • "Open House." 3 Episodes.
  • Brunner.
  • Paratene played the character Kehu
  • Bwana.
  • Paratene played the character Bwana.
  • Governor Grey.
  • Paratene played the part of Governor Grey.
  • Playschool.
  • Paratene was the presenter.
  • Joe and Koro.
  • He was the character Koro.
  • Country GP.
  • Arriving Tuesday. No details.
  • "Seekers." 3 Episodes.
  • Erua.
  • Issues.
  • Opo the Crazy Dolphin. Prod. Colleen Hodge. Dir. Stephe La Hood. 1991.
  • Rapa Nui. Dir. Kevin Reynolds. Executive Prod. Kevin Costner. Windmill Films. 1993.
  • Just what the doctor ordered.
  • "Dead Certs." 1996.
  • Paratene played the part of Hare
  • "Pioneer Women." 1997.
  • Paratene played the role of Wiremu.
  • "Laughinz." Isambard Productions, 1997.
  • "More Issues." Isambard Productions, 1997.
  • "Dead Certs." Dir. Ian Mune. Frame Up Films, 1997.
  • "Queenie & Pete." Dir. Richard Riddiford. Zee Films, 1997.
  • "Newsflash." The Gibson Group, 1998.
  • NZ 2000.
  • NZ 2000.
  • Paratene was the presenter.
  • Performing Arts

  • Nicholas Visits Every Thursday.
  • Cited in The Playwrights Directory of NZ Plays and Playwrights, Wellington, N.Z., 1985. ‘A two hander - a play about a young girl who ends up in the bedsitter of a lonely old lady and they relate for an hour or so.’
  • Varnished Faces.
  • Paratene wrote this play based on the Merchant of Venice, while he was resident writer for Stagestruck - the community company attached to the Downstage Theatre in Wellington, N.Z.
  • Rockin’ Back Magic.
  • A theatre revue that looked at the fifties through its music and youth culture.
  • Theatre in Education Plays
  • Plays for the Mercury Theatre, Down Stage and Fortune Theatre in the 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Playful.
  • Performed in a tent outside the Court Theatre. A one-man show of three fables - one by Hans Christian Anderson called ‘The Ugly Duckling’, one by Paratene ‘The Tui and the Sparrow’, and one by Aesop called ‘The Lion and the Girl’.
  • Gepetto And His Magic Fiddle. Kowhai Park, Wanganui, N.Z. 1978.
  • This play was also performed at Ratana Pa and did a tour of schools around Wanganui in 1978.
  • Saturday Morning. Newtown Community Theatre, Wellington, N.Z. 1980.
  • Cited in The Playwrights Directory of NZ Plays and Playwrights, Wellington, N.Z., 1985. The play was performed at the Newtown Community Theatre in 1980, and then was transferred to Downstage. ‘A play set in an overnight lockup. A comedy.’
  • Directions. Fortune Theatre, Dunedin, N.Z. 1981.
  • Workshopped by Paratene at Downstage in 1979 and at the Fortune Theatre in 1981 and performed there. ‘About a group of secondary school students, a group of mates in their last year of school.’
  • The Fable –ous Adventures of Foxy. Fortune Teahtre, Dunedin, N.Z. 1981.
  • A musical adaptation of Aesops Fables with music composed by John Gibson. Performed by the Fortune Theatre in 1981.
  • Whiria. Two extracts in Māori and English as "From Whiria." 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. 101-11.
  • Co-authored with Pat Hohepa.
  • Poetry

  • "A Tribute to the Living Māori Race." Otago University Students’ Association Literary Review 1888-1988. Ed. David Merritt. Dunedin, N.Z.: O.U.S.A., 1988. 127. Rpt. in Puna Wairere: Essays by Māori. Wellington, N.Z.: New Zealand Planning Council/Te Kaunihera Whakakaupapa mo Aotearoa, 1990. 81-83. Rpt. as "The Pākehā." 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. 214-215.
  • Paratene writes of the destructive impact of Pakeha settlement on Māori, but contends that although ‘[a] lot of blood has been lost’ Māori ‘are busy now/gathering our people/reviving and recruiting/reclaiming what is ours’. Akuhata Tangaere provides a Māori translation of Paratene’s introduction to the poem.
  • Sound recordings

  • The Proper Channels. No details.


  • "At last the truth about Opo." The Press Aug. 1991: 19. No further details.
  • An article outlining the production of the TV documentary "Opo the Crazy Dolphin" with Paratene discussing his role as researcher and script writer of the dramatisations of the documentary.
  • Calder, Peter. "Finding a Balance." New Zealand Herald 16 May 1991: 3.
  • Francke, Liz. "Greenstyle the Celebrities Way." Health and Living 40 (1991): 8-11.
  • Hurley, Jane. "A Step Into Time." Listener 13 Jan. 1992: 61.
  • O’Meagher, Steven. "Rawiri Paratene: our next big star?" Dominion Sunday Times 18 Mar. 1990: Supp. 6-11.
  • "Playwright’s Dilemma." Te Kaea: The Māori Magazine 3 (June 1980): 26.
  • A brief discussion of Paratene’s play Saturday Morning.
  • "Presenting Paratene." Northern Advocate 23 Oct. 1990: 1.
  • "Rawiri - Down to Earth." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 28 (Dec. 1989): 19- 20.