'Bullied' out of her job for her moko kauae

By Jessica Tyson, Tepara Koti
Stevie Pringle. Source: Stevie Pringle, Facebook

A Māori woman living in Australia says she has been unfairly 'bullied' out of her job due to her moko kauae.

Stevie Pringle, 24, worked at a vegan bakery on the Gold Coast.  After receiving a moko kauae, she returned to work and says her boss was unhappy about what she had done.

Stevie says he “basically said I can’t work there anymore because he’s not Māori and he doesn’t support the cause and it’s his shop and his customers.”

The two then got into an argument when Stevie decided to walk out of the bakery and quit her job.

One week earlier, Stevie wore a hijab to work in support of the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

She says her boss was also not pleased about her wearing it and forced her to remove it.

After considering taking legal action against the employer, Stevie decided to voice her concerns in a different way.

"It's not worth it when I could just speak up about this on my own grounds and choice with media, with social media and make a difference that way."

Te Ao has approached the employer for comment and is yet to receive a reply.

Sharing her message

Stevie is calling for the normalisation of moko kauae and says it should be better accepted.

"Whether you have a moko kauae or not, nobody can tell you what you can and can't do."

Of Ngāti Kahu descent, she moved to Australia from Te Awamutu five years ago and says has struggled with her own identity in the past, as a Pākehā and Māori.

"I got my moko kauae because I've always wanted it but I just thought that I wasn't 'enough' for it.  I thought I wasn't Māori enough." 

Her perception of getting a moko changed after talking to her moko artist, who assured her that her initial thoughts were wrong.

"That's basically why I got it.  I realised, 'yeah I am enough'. Just because I'm Māori, I am enough."

Since speaking out about her experience, Stevie says she has received a lot of support.

"So many people have messaged me saying 'thank you' for sharing the messages that I do about moko kauae, about how we are already enough just as we are to receive moko kauae.  That is the most important message."

She is also working on a video showing the process of her getting her moko done and the meaning behind it.