Donna Grant - How have role models shaped your life?

Posted 17 September 2013

400x255 Donna Grant

Donna Grant is the CEO of the Maanikitanga Trust and was the first woman appointed to the board of the New Zealand Warriors.

Walking the talk would have to be the common theme for all of the amazing women that have influenced me so greatly.

Fortune favoured the circumstances of my upbringing as I had significant women of influence within my immediate family networks. A nan on my father’s side who sung like a bellbird and who personified class and couture, the other nan was a ‘salt of the earth’ woman who demonstrated what it means to have a love of life and a great work ethic and of course and my mother who delicately traversed the world of my father’s (Sir Howard Morrison) fame by finding solace and recognition through her sporting achievements in squash, golf and running.

That would be enough for many but I was also blessed with an aunty (Atareta Maxwell) who’s magnitude for manaakitanga knew no bounds. It was she that nurtured my cousins and I within an environment of kapa haka performing excellence. She did so by exuding those qualities that she expected in us. She had great work ethic, she was an absolute stunner of a performer, she could soothe anyone with her beautiful voice and she consistently demanded excellence from all who crossed her path.

 Who would have thought that I could have a career in my chosen passion of Māori performing arts when I was a youngster?  The late 50s were characterised by traditional home environments, with traditional employment opportunities and where Māori culture was limited to the domains of the marae. As the lens view changes to today’s setting, we can all appreciate the wealth of opportunities that are now available and where ‘being different’ is considered cool. Women nowadays are not expected to serve the traditional role of wife and homemaker and if one does, then that is a matter of choice and not circumstance.

 The negotiation of life for me as a Māori has been one of celebration mainly because of the kapa haka world that I come from. ‘Have piupiu will travel’ has meant that I’ve travelled the world as a Māori cultural ambassador and I have seen the best that other countries have to offer because of the elevated status and esteem that host countries hold for NZ’s cultural value. This life hasn’t been enclosed within traditional expectations to which I was born into. It is a life where the messages of ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’ and ‘you can do anything’ provide an optic that celebrates diversity and the pursuit of goals as a normal mantra for existence.

 It is an absolute necessity that we become the best person that we can be and where the old adage of, ‘do unto others as they would have them do unto you’, is as relevant then as it is now. I believe that this is true whether you be white, brown, red or brindle and it is a journey that requires consistent and persistent attention.

 The modern Māori woman is also a nurturer to others and in particular, her children. It is through the intergenerational transmission of love that clarity prevails. Clarity in nurturing fine children, clarity in building great relationships with all who cross your path and clarity in ‘caring a damn’ about what we can each contribute to being an ‘added value component’ and not a ‘user or taker’ within the spaces that we inhabit.

 * Who have been your role models and why?