Celebrated Māori singer to receive prestigious University of Waikato award

3 September 2015

Hinewehi Mohi
Celebrated Māori singer Hinewehi Mohi will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this month.

The New Zealander who shot to fame singing the national anthem in te reo Māori at a 1999 Rugby World Cup game in Twickenham will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this month.

Hinewehi Mohi MNZM graduated from the University of Waikato in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Māori. 

After leaving university, Ms Mohi began a career in television production as a researcher, presenter, director and producer, and nearly 30 years later, she continues to produce programming for mainstream and Māori television through the production company she owns with her husband.

Album release

In 1999, Ms Mohi released her first album Oceania. A critical success, Oceania was the first Māori language album to be released internationally.

It was during a promotional tour for the album that she was asked to sing the New Zealand national anthem at a Rugby World Cup game in Twickenham in the UK. She stunned the crowd by singing it in te reo, and since then it has become commonplace to sing both the English and Māori version before a sports match.

Since then, Ms Mohi has released two more albums and was a semi-finalist in 2013's New Zealander of the Year. In 2008 she was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Māori.

Overcoming adversity

Following the birth of her daughter Hineraukatauri, who has cerebal palsy, Ms Mohi established the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre in 2004 to support children and their families with music therapy. The centre helps children and adults with a wide range of special needs including developmental disorders, learning disabilities and intellectual and physical disabilities.

Ms Mohi was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and later underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She is vocal in her support of breast cancer initiatives and is open about sharing her story to raise awareness of the illness.

A worthy recipient

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says Ms Mohi is a stellar example of the calibre of the University's distinguished alumni.

"We are incredibly proud of Hinewehi's achievements. She has used her talents and leadership to make a difference in the worlds she inhabits – in television, Māori, the performing arts and in music therapy for children."

Ms Mohi is proud of the education she received at Waikato.

"While studying I was inspired by my teachers, Professors Tīmoti Kāretu, Te Wharehuia Milroy and the late Dr Hirini Melbourne, and I also loved to haka with Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato. This gave me a sound academic foundation on which to make my own contribution of the community of Aotearoa New Zealand."

Distinguished Alumni Award

The University of Waikato's Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented on Friday 25 September at the Hamilton Gardens' Pavilion.

This year, three alumni will be recognised with Distinguished Alumni Awards. The other recipients are financial analyst, publisher and investor Peter Churchouse and Olympic gold medallist and New Zealand's current Chef de Mission Rob Waddell.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate and honour University of Waikato alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their careers and communities, taking into account excellence in the professional, cultural, creative and voluntary sectors.

All recipients receive a limited edition cast-glass figure made exclusively by award-winning local artist Di Tocker.

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