Big aspirations for spoken word poet

Published: January 28, 2022

A spoken word poet and fluent te reo Māori speaker says she was ‘blown away’ by news that she won a Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award.

PMOT Award recipient, Jamie-Lee Spence-Wehi

Hear from Jamie Lee, a 2021 Prime Minister's Oranga Tamariki Award recipient, in this Tapatahi segment from Māori Television.



I think it’s very important that we as Māori just get out there and do something with our lives.  

I think we need more Māori, especially wāhine, in hauora. 


So look Jamie-Lee, what advice would you offer to other rangatahi who want to be successful like you but maybe are struggling just a little bit? 


Well something that my Tumuaki this year, he told me – and I think from here on out I’ll go by this as well – you just never leave anything on the court or the field. If you wanna do something go out and do it, don’t just wait for anybody to tell you – you just go. You get on that base line, you head out there and go. You head for that try line, you head to that goal. And never stop. 


That’s fantastic advice. What are you hoping to do with your scholarship? 


To make a life for myself and our whānau. Show our rangatahi that nothing is impossible. If you wanna do it just do it. 


So what are your plans next year? 


I’m gunna go to uni next year and study hauora Māori. My first year of health science and then yeah work my way to physiotherapy. 

Why Māori health and physiotherapy? 

I think our Māori as a collective are one of the… we suffer from a lot of health issues. I think it’s important that we maintain a healthy lifestyle and always keep active. You know, mauri tū mauri ora, a healthy soul is an active soul.  


Great stuff. Apart from your studies you’re also a spoken word poet. Can you tell us a little about that? 


I’ve always been a little bit into poetry and you know, bigger things. Just aspiring to know and to learn more about our Ao, or Te Ao. 


It’s been fantastic talking with you Jamie Lee. Thank you very much for your time today. Congratulations again, we wish you the very best for next year. Jamie Lee Spence-Wehi, recipient of the Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award. Ngā mihi nui kia koe mō te kirihimete me te tau hou anō hoki, tēnā koe. 


Me koe hoki. Ngā mihi, ngā mihi. 

A spoken word poet and fluent te reo Māori speaker says she was ‘blown away’ by news that she won a Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award.

Jamie-Lee Spence-Wehi of Ngātiwai and Tainui says receiving the award was special because it’s one of the few times that she’s been officially recognised.

The 17-year-old was one of 50 young people nominated for a Prime Minister’s Oranga Tamariki Award last year, which recognises the achievements and potential of young people in care.

Sights set on physiotherapy and Māori health

Jamie-Lee received the William Wallace Te Iho Pūmanawa Whakamana Tangata Award – a scholarship that will support her to study a double major in Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Bachelor of Māori Health at Auckland University of Technology this year.

“I am passionate about Māori women’s health and I want there to be more wāhine Māori in the workforce,” Jamie-Lee says.

An advocate for wāhine in care – using narrative to heal

Jamie-Lee is a representative for VOYCE Whakarongo Mai and advocates for young people in care.

“My hope is for all rangatahi to aspire to achieve and do great things.”

Jamie-Lee plans to establish a group to support Māori wahine in care. She wants to use her spoken word poetry as a method to help others to express emotion.

“I find beauty in writing and it is my creative outlet to heal and let go of things instead of holding on to darkness,” Jamie-Lee says.

A tuakana and a promising leader

VOYCE team leader Te Hiwi Preston has supported Jamie-Lee during her care journey. He describes Jamie-Lee as the tuakana of her siblings.

“Jamie-Lee has been playing the role of mum from a very young age. At times doing this under extreme circumstances and situations, often putting herself last and not prioritising her own aspirations.

“The Jamie-Lee we see today is one of dedication, manifestation, motivation, and expression of paving new pathways for her siblings,” Te Hiwi says.

Jamie-Lee’s haerenga with Te Ao Māori has been extremely important for her development, social connection, and wellbeing. She has strong connections to her whakapapa and feels fortunate to have remained with whanau while in the care of Oranga Tamariki.