'Mother to all' farewelled

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 10/08/2012
Mama Tere Strickland
ANDREW GORRIE/ Fairfax NZ
TIRELESS CAMPAIGNER: The late Mama Tere Strickland will be remembered for her support of the marginalised.

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A ''mentor to many and mother to all'' has been farewelled in an emotional ceremony.

Mama Tere Strickland, a respected youth worker, transgender advocate and former sex worker, was buried at Manukau Memorial Gardens on Tuesday after a tangi held at Otara's Whaiora Marae.

She died on August 3 of a suspected heart attack, age 49.

Born into an abusive family, Strickland was 11 when she fled her Otara home and began her life on the streets. She was a sex worker for 25 years before leaving the industry and co-founding Te Aronga Hou Inaianei, an agency aimed at helping prostitutes leave the sex industry, and run through Mangere East Family Service.

She was made a life member of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in 2010 for her work to prevent HIV and AIDS and was a list candidate for the Maori Party in the 2005 election.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia describes Strickland as a dedicated advocate for at-risk groups.

''Her work within the community was unique, particularly her support for transgender people and for younger and more vulnerable members of the sex worker community,'' Turia said.

''She dedicated her life to making their lives better - taking her vans out late at night, working the streets and connecting them to whanau and to social supports.''

A New Zealand AIDS Foundation spokesperson said Strickland was ''a mentor to many and a mother to all''.

''Mama Tere 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.''

Messages from transgender support organisations in the Pacific, describing her as a ''hero'', were read at the tangi.

Brother-in-law Bishop Nigel Ngatuakana  referred to her in a speech as an ''angel'' who ''cared for the sick, the needy and  the homeless''.

While lying in state, Strickland was covered in a Maori cloak and surrounded by photos and hats from her extravagant collection.

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