Community members are mourning the passing of trans advocate Mama Tere Strickland, who passed away on Friday following a suspected heart attack.
The 49-year-old, whose body is currently lying at Otara’s Whaiora Marae, was well-known throughout the community for her outspoken campaigning for transgender rights.
In a statement, the NZAF described her as “a figurehead in the takataapui and pacific communities, a mentor to many and a mother to all.
“Mama Tere Strickland embodied a calm and gracious leadership and toiled tirelessly for her communities. The loss of her personality and presence will leave a void in our hearts, thoughts and community.”
Mama Tere was committed to helping at-risk youth in both the Maori and Pacific Island communities, the organisation said.
“Through her group Te Aronga Hou Inaianei (TAHI) she worked with gay and transgender people, sex workers, and other at risk youth, providing strength and support and empowering them to meet life’s challenges with pride, dignity and aroha.”
A runaway at age 11, Mama Tere lived on the streets of South Auckland for a time and was briefly institutionalised before becoming known as a ‘mother figure’ for trans sex workers.
She was a candidate for the Maori Party in the 2005 election and was made an NZAF Life Member in 2010 in honour of her work with at-risk groups.
A group of her friends have been mourning her passing at her South Auckland home while family members decide whether to bury her body in Manukau or Kaikohe.