Mrs Otene Retires
After almost 20 years as a Welfare Officer with the Department of Maori Affairs in Hastings, Mrs Ema Otene, M.B.E., retired on 17 June. Appointed in 1947, she was one of the first welfare officers in New Zealand. Mrs Otene was brought up in Turakina, and educated at the Turakina Maori Girls' College, going to Hawkes Bay after her marriage in 1927.
Although she was diffident about applying for the job and did so only at the insistence of friends, Mrs Otene found she slipped into the work easily. She now looks back with pleasure at her experiences, and retires with the satisfaction of never having had a rebuff in all her years of service.
Giving the reason for her success, Mrs Otene says, ‘If you take on job this you have to like it. Otherwise it is no good trying to do it. You must mix with people and understand them. I think that is why I have got on with the Maori people—I have made them understand me and what I have been trying to do. I went among the Maori people and told them I was the welfare officer and that I was there to help them. They thought it was a wonderful thing.’
Mrs Otene says that in many aspects the work today is very different from what it was 20 years ago. Then she used to deal with problems indirectly, but in recent years had found that she had to be more direct, and speak her mind. At first many older Maori people had to be persuaded to enter hospitals for treatment, but now they did not object. She found too that nowadays she was dealing with more young people and more young parents.
One of her duties was helping Maoris to find employment. Another was to help find accommodation. The most important task was to encourage parents to keep their children at Secondary School. Both children and parents were realising the value of good education.
Tributes were paid to Mrs Otene by both Maori and Pakeha speakers at a farewell evening at the Waipatu Hall, attended by nearly 300 people. Mr Taanga Toimoana and Mr J. M. Bennett spoke on behalf of the Heretaunga Executive Committee. Other speakers were Mr E. J. Hamlin, Mr W. Rainbow and Mr R. Timms.
During the evening, Mrs Otene was presented with many gifts, and a musical programme was given by a local choir and 25 members of the Karainu High School Maori Club.
Mrs Otene will continue to live in Hastings at her home in Ruahapia Road. She will be kept busy with her work for the Plunket Society and the Save the Children Fund.