Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan

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Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan

Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan.jpg
Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan circa 1960
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Southern Maori
In office
11 March 1967 (1967-03-11) – 12 October 1996
Preceded byEruera Tirikatene
Succeeded byConstituence abolished
Personal details
Born9 January 1932
Died20 July 2011(2011-07-20) (aged 79)
Political partyLabour Party
RelationsEruera Tirikatene (father)
Rino Tirikatene (nephew)

Tini "Whetu" Marama Tirikatene-Sullivan ONZ (9 January 1932 – 20 July 2011) was a New Zealand politician. She was an MP from 1967 to 1996, representing the Labour Party. At the time of her retirement, she was the second longest-serving MP in Parliament, being in her tenth term of office. She was one of twenty holders of the Order of New Zealand, the highest honour of the country.

Early life[edit]

Whetu Marama Tirikatene was born on 9 January 1932, the daughter of Eruera Tirikatene and Ruti Tirikatene (née Solomon). She was raised at Rātana Pā by her grandmother, dress designer and tailor Amiria Henrici Solomon.[1] Educated at Rangiora High School[2] and Wellington East Girls' College, she excelled in dancing, winning the New Zealand amateur Latin American ballroom dancing championship with her Australian partner Kevin Mansfield, and was also accomplished in fencing, becoming one of the top four female fencers in the country.[3][4] She studied for a PhD in political science at the Australian National University, with the topic "Contemporary Maori Political Involvement".[4] While there, she met and married Denis Sullivan, a PhD physics student who later became an associate professor in physics and astrophysics at Victoria University of Wellington.[4][5]

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1967–1969 35th Southern Maori Labour
1969–1972 36th Southern Maori Labour
1972–1975 37th Southern Maori Labour
1975–1978 38th Southern Maori Labour
1978–1981 39th Southern Maori Labour
1981–1984 40th Southern Maori Labour
1984–1987 41st Southern Maori Labour
1987–1990 42nd Southern Maori Labour
1990–1993 43rd Southern Maori Labour
1993–1996 44th Southern Maori Labour

Tirikatene stood unsuccessfully for the Labour Party in the 1966 election for Rangiora.

Tirikatene-Sullivan was first elected to Parliament in the Southern Maori by-election of 1967, which was prompted by the death of the long-serving incumbent—her father Sir Eruera Tirikatene.[4][6] Between 1972 and 1975 she was the Minister of Tourism.[7] She was Minister for the Environment from 1974 to 1975.[8] She was re-elected by substantial majorities until the 1996 election, when the Southern Maori electorate was abolished in the transition to MMP. Tirikatene-Sullivan then contested the new Te Tai Tonga electorate, which covered much of the same territory as the old Southern Maori electorate, but she was narrowly defeated by Tu Wyllie of New Zealand First. She subsequently retired from politics.

In 1970 Tirikatene-Sullivan was the first woman to give birth whilst a sitting MP. She later became the first (both in New Zealand and the Commonwealth) cabinet minister to give birth to a child.[9]

In 1993, Tirikatene-Sullivan was made a member of the Order of New Zealand, the highest award given by the New Zealand government. The same year, she was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal.[10] She died in Wellington on 20 July 2011.[11]


  1. ^ Elizabeth,, Wratislav,. Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan : travel in style. Hammonds, Lucy,, Cracknell, Tryphena,, MTG Hawke's Bay (Museum),. Napier. ISBN 9780992259679. OCLC 893610628.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ "Rangiora High School - Alumni". Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Where the Queen went she followed". Te Ao Hou. Department of Maori Affairs (7): 11. Summer 1954. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "New Member of Parliament for Southern Maori". Te Ao Hou. Department of Maori Affairs (59): 5. June 1967. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Denis Sullivan". Victoria University. Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 240.
  7. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 92–93.
  8. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 93.
  9. ^ "Mothers in Parliament: The women who paved the way for Jacinda Ardern". Newshub. 24 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  10. ^ "The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  11. ^ "NZ's longest-serving female MP passes away". The New Zealand Herald. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 22 July 2011.


  • Women in Parliamentary Life 1970-1990: Hocken Lecture 1993 by Marilyn Waring, page 36-37 (Hocken Library, University of Otago, 1994) ISBN 0-902041-61-4
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
Political offices
Preceded by
Joe Walding
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Venn Young
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Eruera Tirikatene
Member of Parliament for Southern Maori
Constituency abolished, replaced by Te Tai Tonga