Toby Rikihana was born in Rotorua and was educated at Whakarewarewa Primary School, Rotorua High School and St Stephen’s School. He was first equal in a Ngarimu Māori writing competition in the early 1950s and in 1953 received a Social Sciences cadetship which involved working in various government departments in Wellington while attending University.
From 1953-55 he worked in the Head Office and District Office of Māori Affairs, the District Office of the Social Security Department, Head Office of the Labour and Employment Department, and Head Office of the Justice Department. While working in the Justice Department he was seconded to the Invercargill Borstal and spent three months in administration and three months in enforcement. In 1956 Rikihana moved to Auckland, and worked in the Statistics Branch of the Labour and Employment District Office. From 1957-1958 he attended Auckland Training College and in 1959 was awarded a third-year full-time university year of study in lieu of a probationary year teaching in a school.
In 1960 he was a relieving teacher at Mt Roskill Intermediate and Henderson Primary School, and then became a full-time teacher at Avondale Intermediate until 1962. He graduated with a B.A. in Education and in 1963 joined the New Zealand Army Regular Force as an Education Officer and as a Personnel Selection Officer. While in the army, Rikihana wrote a thesis on army education; in 1965 he graduated with a Masters in Education.
In 1966 he returned to teaching and taught at Birkdale Intermediate from the last term of 1966 to 1968. In 1969, Rikihana was an exchange teacher in London for one year. On his return to New Zealand, he worked at Windy Ridge School as a first assistant (1970-75), Itinerant Teacher of Māori (1976-77), and Deputy Principal (1978-79). In 1980 he became a Resource Teacher of Māori in the North Shore. From 1981-85 he was Principal of Maungatapere Primary School in Whangarei.
From 1986-87 Rikihana was Principal of Sutton Park Primary School and in the following year was seconded to the Auckland College of Education as an Education Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Education. In 1989 he was seconded to the Māori Health Organisation, He Puna Ora, for one year as Chief Executive; he was responsible for Māori paediatric courses with Professors C. Mantell and B. Elliot.
In 1990 Rikihana was appointed as Education Officer in Transition with the Ministry of Education. He was also Field Officer with Quest Rapuara when the new government agency was established. From 1991-96, Rikihana was Head of Department in Te Tari Mātauranga Māori at Manukau Polytechnic. He retired at the end of 1996.
From 1998-2001 Rikihana was the Assessor for the Ministry of Education for Māori Language Courses in Primary and Secondary Schools in Te Waka o Māui (the South Island). The assessments were for funding purposes.
Rikihana collects and translates waiata and writes non-fiction articles and reference material on curricular areas; these are distributed throughout the country. He has run three-day Wānanga for teachers and parents nation-wide. He has a working relationship with the Māori Education Trust, is Pakeke for the Māori section of Te Riu Roa, and is Pakeke for the Kaitakawaenga RTM’s and Māori Advisers in the wider Otautahi area. Rikihana is a life member of Te Hau Takitini o Aotearoa - ASTI, and a life member of NZEI-Te Riu Roa. He was a disc jockey for Radio Manukau where he had a weekly programme for a number of months in the mid 1970s. From 1978-1980 he was a Birkenhead City Councillor and was a Birkenhead Licensed Trust Member.
- Correspondence and interview with Rikihana, 16 Dec. and 21 Dec. 1992, 14 Sept. 1998, and 23 Feb. 2006.