My name is Emerald Mary Muriwai McPhee. My dad grew up in Ōpōtiki and has lived most of his life up here in Auckland. We are from Ngāti Ira and Ngai Tamahaua on my dad’s side. On my mum’s side, we are Irish/Pākehā. I have two sisters, Esme and Angie and two nephews, Izrael and Hendrix.
I grew up in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), spending most of my life in West Auckland and visiting Ōpōtiki for the first time just after leaving high school. Growing up as an urban Māori I had limited opportunities to explore my māoritanga at school although I sporadically participated in kapa haka, learned waiata and slowly put together the puzzle pieces of my whakapapa.
After high school, I went straight into studying my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and English at Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau (the University of Auckland). I picked up kapa haka again and learned te reo with Ngā Tauira Māori while I was studying and realised the revitalisation of our reo is lifelong journey I continue to grow into. I completed two years of postgraduate studies and experienced the privilege of being first person from my whānau on both sides to complete a Master of Science (Psychology) and Certificates in Exercise Prescription.
While I was studying I volunteered as a youth counsellor and mentor with a dream of giving back to young people who were struggling with issues from mental health, physical health, education and/or finding their place in the world. It is important for me to contribute to a world where rangatahi feel supported, valued and safe and where our people can maintain healthy, sustainable and prosperous lives.
I currently work part time as a researcher with Te Rōpū Whāriki in the College of Health at Massey University where I do research on indigenous identity and wellbeing as well as evaluation projects. This includes projects about alcohol use, smoking, health service provision and cultural identity. I am also a Personal Trainer where I have the extremely rewarding job of supporting people to achieve their health and fitness goals. I help manage a gym whilst running my own business Go Get Em Fitness NZ. The blending of these two careers came naturally, enabling me to represent Māori in health research as well as working kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) to support people in their journey towards a healthy body and mind.
In the past few years Whakatōhea have brought their hui to Auckland, connecting our diverse whānau to share stories and our visions of the future. These hui have provided invaluable opportunities to connect with whānau, to know where we come from and that we all have a home in Ōpōtiki. My vision is that we can continue to grow our connections and support our whānau at home in Ōpōtiki as well as across the motu and abroad. We are a diverse iwi with special taonga to share with each other and the world. I hope for a future where our different skills are given the value they deserve and a future where we can generate opportunities for our people as a self-governing, resilient and proud iwi.