Introducing ABI Kaiwhakahaere

What better time to introduce you to our Kaiwhakahaere (ABI Māori Leaders/Advisors)

ABI are celebrating Te wiki o te Reo Māori this week and what better time to introduce you to our kaiwhakahaere. ABI Rehabilitation NZ has the support of a Kaumātua, Urihaumate (Māori Consumer) and Whānau Advisor nationally and at our Auckland Intensive site we have recently had a Kaiārahi Kaupapa Māori join the ABI whānau. 

Māori are over represented in Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury statistics and consequently are a large group of ABI’s clients across all ABI services: intensive, in the community and in residential disability support. ABI is strongly committed to ensuring our rehabilitation approaches are very cognisant of the needs of Maori as clients and whānau. The ABI logo represents the weaving together of clients, whānau and ABI staff, in a partnership approach that acknowledges Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

ABI’s Kaumātua is Ray Ahipene-Mercer. Ray (Ngāi Tara, Ngāti Ira, Ngāi Tahu) is of Māori, Welsh, Swedish and Scot descent.  

Ray regularly works with Wellington schools and other groups around environmental and Mātauranga Māori issues and sharing knowledge. Ray’s work in environmental and Mātauranga Māori issues often bought him in contact with Wellington City Council.  Ray was elected to the Council for five terms (sixteen years), being the second Māori to be elected to the Wellington City Council and the first Maori to be elected since 1962.  Ray held various roles in the Arts when at the Council.

Ray has had a long musical career as a vocalist and guitar player.  This started at an early age and he became a full-time musician at the age of 21. Ray learned to make and repair guitars as a luthier (stringed instrument maker) which he still does from his studio in Wellington. Ray has been involved with various music schools in New Zealand as either an Assessor of live music performance and member of Boards at both Whitereia and Te Toi Whakaari – New Zealand Drama School.

Currently, Ray is Chair of Orchestra Wellington, a role he has held since 2018. Ray was the first Māori to chair an Orchestra in New Zealand.

Te Rina Ruru-Pelasio (LLB, BScoSc) is ABI’s Urihaumate (Māori Consumer) and Whānau Advisor and also a member of ABI’s Clinical Governance Group.  Te Rina (Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa, Te Aitanga a Māhaki) is of Māori and Irish descent. Te Rina has lived experience with her older brother who sustained a severe Traumatic Brain Injury from a motor vehicle accident in 2007.  Along with her whānau experience, the experiences of others she has met on their journey, has increased her awareness of the quality, safety and cultural issues people face on a day-to-day basis. Te Rina since co-founded Camp Unity, a Charitable Trust that provides advocacy, support and holistic healing to young people who provide care to a family, whānau, or aiga member with a disability, illness, or injury requiring daily support. Te Rina has also been a member of national and local advisory groups such as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Consumer Board, ACC Whole Pathways Collaborative, Health Quality and Safety Commissions Consumer Network, Te Roopū Māori group, and Medication Safety group. 

Te Rina is passionate about sharing the experiences of her whānau to influence positive change within crown agencies, providers, and community organisations.

Patricia Ashton is ABI’s new member to the team as a Kaiārahi Kaupapa Māori. Patricia (Ngāpuhi, Hokianaga Whakapau Karakia, Ngāti Whānaunga and Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa) grew up in a small town called Kaikohe also known as Kaikohekohe where she attended Kura Kaupapa. Patricia then moved to Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Māori Development at AUT University. One of her most recent qualification’s was a Diploma in Te Pinakitanga ki te Reo Kairangi, this giving her the opportunity to advance in her Reo Māori. 

In the last 6 years before starting with ABI, Patricia was working in the finance sector at a major bank with her recent role as a National Operations Manager with Māori and Iwi. Within this organisation Patricia was always putting herself forward to be part of the many groups on offer. She was part of the Cultural Expert Advisory Group, Māori performing group, Youth Network, Health & Safety representative, First Aider. She was a Manage Your Money Facilitator where she was able to present and assist communities with tips and information to help them financially. She participated in ‘The day in the Navy’ twice as well as being selected to travel to London for the One Young World summit (a global young leaders forum). Patricia has always been a person who loves to be part of the community and find new ways on improving her skills to be able to do more for others.

Patricia has always been passionate about Te Ao Māori where she is a new branch member of the Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora (Maori Women’s Welfare League) where she can stay connected to Māori communities and assist in guiding better outcomes for Māori Wahine and their Whānau. She often finds herself learning new skills to revitalise her language as well as bringing back old practices. Such as mahi rārānga Korowai (weaving Māori feathered cloaks), cooking Fry Bread, baking Rewana Bread, cooking Steam pudding. She is also part of a Kapa Haka Roopu (Māori performing group) called Muriwhenua located in Kaitaia.

Here is one of Patricia’s favourite Whakatauki (Māori proverb) – Ko taku reo taku ohooho, ko taku reo taku mapihi mauria which means My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.

Examples of the valuable mahi these kaiwhakahaere have been providing ABI includes the following: 


  • Refining the job description for the Kaiārahi role and suggesting places to advertise and networks to link in with
  • Te Reo translations for signage and logo at the ABI sites
  • Content and priorities within the ABI Māori Work Programme, mentoring, advice and support to those involved in implementing this programme
  • Connecting ABI in with key community organisations and leaders locally
  • Use of Te Reo and Te Ao Māori concepts within the ABI website, Annual Plan, Strategic Plan, Social Media and Brochures
  • Blessing ABI new sites and participating in these celebrations as ABI’s Kaumātua
  • Cultural support to some ABI staff and clients and whānau as required

 Te Rina

  • Member of ABI’s Clinical Governance team – providing a client and Māori voice to support ABI with best practice service delivery and policy approaches that reflect the needs of clients, Māori and whānau  
  • Refining the kaiārahi role and being part of the interview and recruitment panel for this role
  • Content and priorities within the ABI Māori Work Programme, mentoring, advice and support to those involved in implementing this programme
  • Strategies and guidance on improving ABI’s cultural confidence


  • Completing her orientation and induction to ABI
  • Working alongside the rehabilitation team at the Auckland Intensive site
  • Providing an education session for the whole ABI team to celebrate Te wiki o te Reo Māori 

ABI values having Ray, Te Rina and Patricia’s knowledge, experience, wisdom and connections as part of the team to support ABI genuinely navigating and implementing kaupapa Māori approaches to ABI as an organisation and especially to rehabilitation and service delivery.