Miraka Szászy

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Dame Miraka "Mira" Szászy DBE QSM JP (née Petricevich, 7 August 1921 – 20 December 2001)[1] was a prominent Māori leader, making significant contributions in education, broadcasting, social welfare and small business development.


Mira Petricevich was the first Māori woman to graduate with a degree from the University of Auckland - BA, Dip SocSci. She was then the first Māori woman to win a fellowship to the University of Hawaii. After returning to New Zealand, she joined the Ministry of Maori Affairs as a welfare officer.[2]

In 1951, she was involved in the establishment of the Māori Women's Welfare League (Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora) and was appointed Secretary of its first executive.[3] Between 1973 and 1977, Szászy was President of the organisation.[4] In the early 1960s, Miraka represented the League on the board of the Māori Education Foundation.[5]

Alongside campaigning for Māori, Mira championed the cause of women, recalling how she became aware of 'the oppression of women as well as of Māori when she began working in a government department, and having observed "job discrimination" within the department.'[6] Like Dame Whina Cooper, Mira felt keenly the injustice that resulted from some iwi preventing women from speaking upon the marae ātea, despite possessing an eloquence "as good as, if not better than that of the men I listened to."[7] Her dedication to achieving equality for Māori women was acknowledged in tributes after her death.[8] The then-Prime Minister, Helen Clark said, "In addition to her role as an advocate and worker for Māoridom, she was a tireless champion on behalf of women, and, in particular, to advance the status of Māori women."[9]

Mira began her career as a teacher in 1946, and in 1972, became a lecturer in Māori Studies at Auckland Secondary Teachers' Training College (now Auckland College of Education).[10]

She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1990.

In 1993 she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Victoria University of Wellington in recognition of her contribution to the nation.[11] Also in 1993, she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Mira was born in Waihopo, Northland, in 1921, of Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa, and Te Aupōuri descent. Her parents were Lovro Petricevich, a Dalmatian gum digger, and Makareta Raharuhi.[13][14]

She married Albert Szászy, an Aucklander of Hungarian heritage in 1956; they had two sons, Philip and Mark.[15]


She died at home in Ngataki, aged 80, in 2001.[16]


The Mira Szászy Research Centre was established by the University of Auckland Business School in 1998 in honour of Dame Mira’s achievements; the Centre is New Zealand's first dedicated Māori and Pacific research facility in business and economics.[17] The Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award recognises "outstanding achievement by graduates of the University of Auckland Business School, and excellence in iwi and business endeavours nationwide and internationally."[18]


  1. ^ "Miraka Szászy biodata". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.
  2. ^ Paisley, Fiona (2009). Glamour in the Pacific: Cultural Internationalism and Race Politics in the Women's Pan-Pacific. University of Hawai'i Press. pp. 174–175. ISBN 978-0-8248-3342-8.
  3. ^ Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books. 2014. p. 393. ISBN 9780908321537.
  4. ^ "History - Maori Women's Welfare League". Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  5. ^ Hunn, J. K. (June 1962). "The Maori Education Foundation". The Journal of the Polynesian Society. 71/2: 256. JSTOR 20704002.
  6. ^ Myers, Virginia (1987). Head and Shoulders: Successful New Zealand women Talk to Virginia Myers. Auckland: Penguin Books. pp. 238, 243. ISBN 0140092358.
  7. ^ Fox, Karen (2011). Māori and Aboriginal Women in the Public Eye: Representing Difference, 1950-2000. ANU Press. pp. 168–169. ISBN 9781921862618.
  8. ^ Horomia, Parekura (20 December 2017). "Maoridom is poorer for the loss of two rangatira". The official website of the New Zealand Government. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  9. ^ Clark, Helen (20 December 2001). "Dame Mira Szaszy". The official website of The New Zealand Government. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  10. ^ "Obituary - Miraka Szaszy". 20 December 2001. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Honorary graduates and Hunter fellowships". Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  12. ^ "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  13. ^ Stoffel, H. P. (1986). "Slavische Volksgruppen in Übersee: Ethnika für die Dalmatiner in Neuseeland: P. Brang zum 60. Geburtstag gewidmet". Zeitschrift Für Slavische Philologie. 45: 265–266. JSTOR 24001995.
  14. ^ Bozic-Vrbancic, Senka. "Tarara: Croats and Maori in New Zealand". CROWN: Croatian World Network. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Obituary: Mira Szaszy". Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  16. ^ "Dame Mira Szaszy". Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Mira Szászy Research Centre for Māori and Pacific Economic Development - The University of Auckland". Mira.auckland.ac.nz. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Dame Mira Szászy Māori Alumni Award". Retrieved 6 August 2017.

External links[edit]