Fighting for a better life

Fighting for a better life

Janice Panoho has been fighting for a better life for Māori since she joined the 1975 Land March and is still pursuing that goal in her new leadership role with the PSA.

As a 14-year-old, Janice and other students marched across the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The following year she took part in the occupation of Bastion Point.

“It was a very political era when we got started. We rose up to assert our rangatiratanga,” Janice recalls.

She believes her new role as PSA Kaihautū Māori springs from that fight for change.janice year unkown 4

“Through our own Māori leadership, we’re asserting our mana as Māori workers in the PSA Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.”

The creation of the new position has been supported by the PSA leadership and staff, Te Rūnanga, our PSA Kaumātua and Kuia, and the PSA Māori staff rōpū Te Whānau Atawhai.

Janice has been working in various roles at the PSA since 1984.

In her new role, she will provide cultural advice to help build the union’s tikanga practice, and strengthen policies and processes to reflect the union’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori development.


Boosting Māori development is a goal that’s close to Janice’s heart.

With whakapapa stemming from Te Tai Tokerau, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua, Janice has seen the effects of colonisation and deprivation on her iwi and wants to help create more positive opportunities for Māori.

“Māori employment still lags behind. While 15.9% Māori representation in the public service workforce is higher than the overall workforce figure of 12.6%, I’d like us to set a benchmark for each public service agency of a workforce that’s at least 20% Māori.”

Janice intends to help strengthen the union’s relationships with Māori MPs and to seek their commitment to that target.

She also plans to push for more wāhine Māori to be promoted into senior roles, and for the pay gap for wāhine Māori to be closed.

Janice will also lead the union’s work with iwi leaders and kaupapa Māori organisations.

She currently chairs Te Ara Mahi Māori, an independent group which includes Māori union, iwi and industry leaders who are working on a Māori Employment Action Plan.

The groups is travelling across the motu seeking input from iwi, before making recommendations to the Minister for Social Development.

“This could include using role models to guide rangatahi on their path through education and into the workforce.”


Within the union, Janice is keen to help strengthen Te Rūnanga’s constitutional processes including ensuring all enterprises have Hinonga Māngai Māori, formerly known as Māori Enterprise Delegates.

In the 1990s Janice held hui around Aotearoa to seek endorsement from Māori members to establish the Rūnanga delegate structure for each sector through the introduction of new rule changes, and wants to continue building our membership and the Hinonga Māngai Māori (delegates).

She's proud Te Rūnanga now numbers about 8000 members.

“As Māori within the union for state employees, we’re well placed to campaign for transformative change for our people and communities. Ka whawhai tonu mātou, ake ake ake!”

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