Largely in response to increased urbanisation of Māori during the 1930s and 1940s, the Department of Māori Affairs employed welfare officers to assist with issues like health, housing and discrimination faced by Māori. Modelled on Women’s Health League committees the Controller of Welfare, Rangiataahua Royal, saw merit in establishing women’s welfare committees to address these issues. In 1950 he tried to bring together the Women’s Health League committees and the women’s welfare committees into one national body. The Department of Māori Affairs officers established 214 branches made up of over 2,500 members and called them together in September 1951. The Women’s Health League committees decided to remain independent but the welfare committees became part of the first national Māori organisation in Aotearoa – the Maori Women’s Welfare League (Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora).
Whina Cooper was elected the first President and Princess Te Puea became Patron, beginning the relationship with the Kiingitanga. The remaining members of the Executive were based in Wellington, with the majority working in the Department of Māori Affairs, which provided secretarial and administrative support. By 1957 there were strong calls for separation from the Department and by 1959 MWWL was entirely independent from the Department and was registered as an incorporated society. In 1987 MWWL established the Maori Women’s Development Fund (now MWDI) to assist women and their whānau into business and AMNOHL (Aotearoa Maori Netball) to encourage better health for our women through the vehicle of netball.
Members of Tumanako Branch, presided over by Pare Irwin, November 1970.
National Council attending National Conference 2019 in Masterton.
The foundation of MWWL are the branches based in the community.
We have eight regions in Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu, based on the Māori Land Court districts and each region has a Regional Council that co-ordinates its branches. At this stage we only have one overseas branch, based in Perth.
The governing body of MWWL is the National Council which is made up of delegates of every branch who meet once a year at National Conference.
The National Executive of ten, comprises the management committee and we have a national office in Wellington with four staff.
We are governed by our Constitution and Standing Orders.