ECE Diamonds

Maureen Te Wehioterangi Jehly – fighting the inequities for Māori in education 

Maureen Jehly (then Locke) at
Victoria University of Wellington Crēche, 1984


Life member 1995
Kaiwhakahaere 2005-2013

Maureen Te Wehioterangi Jehly’s passion and determination to address inequities for Māori children in early childhood education and advance biculturalism made her one of our most influential and respected members and leaders.

It was in the Playcentre movement with her own children in the 1960s and 1970s that Whaea Maureen learned about the inequities between Māori and non-Māori in education: “There was this talk: “They’re eighteen months behind Pākehā children when they go to school and when they go to school they’re disadvantaged.”

“This was a turning point in my life. I learned how Māori had become the recipient of a number of negative statistics in society. I became passionate about the lives of Māori mothers and their children and tried to address some of the inequities.”

“In 1976 I moved to Wellington… from a Māori environment to a 100% Pākehā environment, as a childcare supervisor for the under-twos’ crèche at the Victoria University.

“Universities were quite alien to me; however, a whole new world opened up and it was wonderful meeting all these academic parents, and especially being able to advise them about Māori child-rearing and parenting. I would also look around me at the crèche and think, “Where are all the Māori mothers?” I’d go recruiting down to the marae and see if any of the Māori mothers wanted to use the crèche.”

In 1983, Whaea Maureen became a tutor at the Association (now Te Rito Maioha). She campaigned to raise awareness and commitment for biculturalism within the organisation, and in 1986 became National Training Director, running a team of tutors training early childhood teachers. She ran bicultural training programmes across the country, including for her staff. She attended workshops on the Treaty of Waitangi and was a guest speaker at numerous conferences.

Whaea Maureen’s influence extended well beyond the Association. In the late 1980s, she was assigned to the Rūnanga advising the Government on ways to achieve social equity for Māori in the 1989–1990 early childhood Before Five reforms. “That was fraught with difficulty, trying to change the mindset of the leaders within the early childhood sector, including kindergartens… A positive outcome was the Mana Māori Framework from which the world-renowned [ECE curriculum] Te Whāriki was developed.” 

In 1991, Whaea Maureen became the Mana Māori Training Co-ordinator and later accepted the roles of National Advisor Māori, and then Kaiwhakahaere. 

Whaea Maureen challenged the Association to consider its own role in honouring the Treaty, not only across its own operations, but in supporting and advising ECE centres to embrace bicultural principles and practice. The bicultural journey was at times stormy, but at the 2012 Association conference, Whaea Maureen spoke proudly of the emerging culture of the organisation.

“[It] is manifested in how we greet our people and visitors, take care of them and farewell them. We have the mihi whakatau, karakia, waiata, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and te reo me ona tikanga... We have kuia and kaumātua around our bases and are making strong connections with mana whenua and learning the idioms of its people. 

“We have a unique bicultural degree programme delivered by our highly qualified lecturers and pouako. The Association is sustained by a bicultural committee led by a Pouhere Kaupapa Māori, supported and advised by a Kaumātua and the Kaiwhakahaere, and debated through a Māori lens. 

“This then is the emerging identity, language and culture of your organisation of which you can be justly proud.”

This article is an abridged version from Te Rito Maioha’s book on its life members and their work. You can read Maureen’s full story and those of other ECE champions:

Life Stories on the Frontline: Growing a childcare movement in Aotearoa
Ngā kohinga kōrero a te aumangea: Kia mana te ara kōhungahunga ki Aotearoa