Cook Islands' Aunty Mau hopes for fifth term

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15 November 2010

Nikao MP and Democratic Party candidate Ngamau ‘Aunty Mau’ Munokoa has kept her campaign low key this election.

“They all know me,” she says with her usual modest laugh.  And it’s not surprising – Aunty Mau really is the aunty, or perhaps the grandmother, of the village.  This year she was recognised with an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list, for public services and service to the community.

The 66-year-old came from humble beginnings, she remembers growing up in a tin shack – and then opening her own tin shack shop. She’s well known as a hardworking woman, often seen in her well-worn sneakers out raking rubbish or helping her husband Ngari and the boys with their planting – switching easily to formal attire and head ei to attend functions – she’s long ago mastered the art of multi-tasking.

Many of her attributes come from being a mother of five and taking in around 30 youngsters over the years to help extended family.  She still enjoys getting up early in the morning to help bake bread and pies at the family’s Turamatuitui Store – the shop she opened in 1979.  In 1962 her parents, the late Upokotokoa (nee Browne) and Tuoro Wichman, called her back from a year in Auckland where she had done clerical studies.  She had hoped to become a teacher, but instead her father helped her start her first shop, her mother already having taught her how to bake.

“It started from a little thing – a tin can shack and then Ngari and I we built this (Turamatuitui).”

Her career in politics is as impressive as her years as a successful businesswoman – she’s served as a cabinet minister longer than any other woman – in fact she is the third woman to ever be elected to parliament since self-governance in 1965.  She first ran for parliament in 1994 but was unsuccessful. Aunty Mau then became the third woman to take up a parliamentary post after winning the 1996 by-election for Nikao against CIP candidate Tina Browne (after the death of Niroa Manuela) as the Demo Alliance candidate. It wasn’t until 1999 that she was joined by another woman in parliament – the CIP’s (late) Maria Heather.

Aunty Mau is now hoping to secure her fifth term in the house.  She admits a lot has changed since she resigned as a cabinet minister last December in protest over the sacking of former deputy prime minister Sir Terepai Maoate, something she says she has no regrets over.  But the sudden passing of her eldest child Colin, in March, has been a much bigger turning point in Aunty Mau’s life.

“After Colin died things changed in my life. I didn’t really want to run again. I was needed at the shop. But I thought about it and committed to this as my last four years in parliament if I win.”  It’s been a busy month for Aunty Mau – not just because of the election – this Sunday she celebrates 46 years of marriage and next Thursday her eldest grandchild turns 21.

She’s decided to keep her campaign limited virtually to door-to-door visits in the village, apart from yesterday’s BBQ fundraiser.  “I don’t want to spend money (on campaigning), I’d rather spend money on my electorate after the voting and that’s why I haven’t fundraised until now.  “In the village many people are in rented homes and they have children – I don’t want to depend on them to come and give me money.”  Aunty Mau says she hopes to continue the work she’s done over the past 15 years – but first she must win next Wednesday’s election against Independent candidate Philip Nicholas and CIP candidate Tangee Kokaua.

[Cook Islands News - Helen Greig














































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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