Wahine Toa: Nicol “Kelly” Takurua

The latest Wahine Toa post by By Nancy Gilbert, wife of U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert.

Wahine Toa Nicol ‘Kelly’ Takurua of Ngāti Porou descent, is a champion social worker in rural Southland.  And , as she tells it, her interest in organizing and helping others with their lives is something she’s done all her life.

Wahine Toa: Kelly Takurua Photo credit: Kelly Takurua
Wahine Toa: Kelly Takurua Photo credit: Kelly Takurua

Kelly’s family relocated from their tribal lands of Tokomaru Bay on the north island to Southland and Kelly was born in Gore.  Growing up and working in Ngāi Tahu territory as Ngāti Porou, Kelly recalls  that she was accepted easily because of her deep connections to whānau. “You can get lost down here without maintaining your ties,” says Kelly. Being in a leadership role it has been important to connect back to my whakapapa and whānau who have emphasized the strength of women throughout my life.”

Kelly’s Gore team from Te Iho Awhi Rito Photo credit: U.S. Department of State
Kelly’s Gore team from Te Iho Awhi Rito Photo credit: U.S. Department of State

From a young age, Kelly developed a reputation as ‘the organized one’ and demonstrated a special talent for bringing people together.  And,  she explains, she has always been a great listener… the key skill required to be a successful social worker. The social worker listens to the clients personal stories of need, and then evaluates, engages and assists whānau to find solutions to their problems.

Te Iho Awhi Rito rangatahi program (youth program) Photo credit: Kelly Takurua
Te Iho Awhi Rito rangatahi program (youth program) Photo credit: Kelly Takurua

Under Kelly’s strategic direction as manager and social worker within the marae-based Te Iho Awhi Rito Social service families are given tools to solve their personal problems. “At our Service we put a focus on the whole family and how to get families from point A to point B,” she explains. Kelly teaches families financial management, parenting education, setting goals and planning, including connecting whanau to resources. Kelly uses an empathic and systematic approach to build relationships. This inclusive and holistic approach has been the key to providing quality

“I let the conversations happen. Their stories unfold. The main focus is always on the children. If there is a crisis, such as threat of suicide, we get them straight away for medical and mental intervention; however, those are not the stories of everyday. Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes people just need to come into our center  and have a ‘cuppa’. We provide a space for people to reflect on their situations and once they are engaged in purposeful conversation they often come up with their own solutions. We help people to help themselves. I ask people to describe their life picture and to imagine what they would like it ideally to look like. I try to help them achieve their dream picture.”

Kelly and her Ngāti Porou whanau Photo credit: Kelly Takurua
Kelly and her Ngāti Porou whanau Photo credit: Kelly Takurua

Kelly attributes her Māori heritage as her source of strength and guiding light. Respectfully acknowledging that those affiliated with the Service are from different iwi, Kelly boasts that the organization is very much ‘pan-tribal,’ enabling the Service to serve the diversity of needs within the community.

Kelly and with her mother and team at the Wahine Toa Leadership Conference Photo credit: Kelly Takurua
Kelly with her mother and team at the Wahine Toa Leadership Conference Photo credit: Kelly Takurua

In our short time together it is obvious that Kelly Takurua is making a difference to families every single day one conversation at a time. She is truly passionate and dedicated to seeing whānau succeed.