Stars aligned

Photography Andrew Coffey. Make-up and hair Aleph Beauty

Stacey Morrison shares her love of winter, looking up, and why she’s grateful to be 50.

Stacey Morrison’s star has shone brightly on our television screens and over the airways since the talented wāhine landed her first role on What Now at age 18.
At 50 it is shining ever brighter as the Flava radio breakfast co-host, book author, Māori language tutor, cultural advisor, and mum of three continues to put her sparkle into everything she touches.

The winter months of June and July, which also herald in the Māori New Year, is a favourite time of year for Morrison (Ngāi Tahu, Te Arawa), whose birthday falls over Matariki on June 25.

“I’m a Matariki baby and it’s naturally always been a natural good reset time for me, though I didn’t always know why,” says Morrison. “Growing up I always thought my birthday was at a special time of year, but I didn’t know about Matariki at that time because I wasn’t brought up with that. On some sort of level, I always knew it was a time for stillness, reflection, planning and looking ahead.”

Stacey wears Liz Mitchell felted embroidered dress made from New Zealand wool.

It’s also an extra special birthday this year as Morrison has just turned 50 – one year older than her maternal grandma, and six years older than her mother who both died of breast cancer.

“Surviving and thriving at 50 is something I don’t take for granted,” she says. “I feel so fortunate to make it to 50 and be healthy, especially as this makes me the eldest woman in my mother’s line for three generations. Mum was 45 when she died and Nana was 49. It’s a privilege to be 50 and I’m seated in gratitude. I think it is important to honour those who don’t make it, and to not be self-conscious about the number either. I mean, I’m as old as hip-hop, how can you get better than that?”

And she is standing in her power as a Ngāi Tahu woman in leadership, along with many of her fellow Ngāi Tahu wāhine who are also turning 50 this year.

“My friend’s daughter noticed there’s a group of us Ngāi Tahu women who all turn 50 this year who are heads of department at universities, professors, bosses and on boards, and said ‘mum, you need to find out why are you all like this and what made you all like this?’ She went on to say, ‘You are all the same but different’. I think it’s a sign of our resurgence thanks in part to the Ngāi Tahu settlement, and a time of renaissance for our iwi as well. I thought a 16-year-old noticing that was pretty special and she makes a really good point.”

Stacey wears Liz Mitchell New Zealand wool wrap and felted dress.

Language barrier

Raised in Christchurch, Morrison’s upbringing was similar to many Māori schooled in the 70s and 80s. She didn’t speak te reo Māori even though her kuia was a native speaker.
“It’s fair to say I had my struggle of trying to figure out where it fit in for me,” says Morrison. “I’m fortunate that I can now talk about it with my dad. His sense of self and identity was impacted by the experiences of his generation and it wasn’t seen as something positive to be Māori.”

Morrison’s school had a strong Māori unit, but the family thought learning Japanese would be better for her career.

She also admits being too scared to learn Māori at school because she was too embarrassed that she didn’t know it, especially as her kuia was fluent. “I had nothing, and I just felt like that would show a kind of dysfunction in our whānau that I didn’t really want to address,” she admits.

Instead, her journey took her to Japan as an exchange student, for which she is forever grateful.

“I’m so glad I did because it wasn’t until I went to Japan that I started to feel a yearning for my own language,” she explains. “It built my confidence that I could learn a language and how it was integrated into culture, and I wrote to my kuia and said, ‘I’m going to learn Māori when I get home’.”

Learning Māori as an adult was not easy for Morrison and it took a lot of work and perseverance.

It’s been a healing journey for Morrison and brought the gift of being able to converse in Māori with her kuia for 20 years.

“It’s very much a healing journey. When you get told as a child that something’s worthless but it’s a part of you, then what does that do? How do you reclaim, reframe and regain that? That’s been my journey and luckily that’s been intertwined with Scotty’s as well.”

Stacey wears Sweepstake Winners ‘Aumoe’ shirt.

Morrison describes husband Scotty as her once-in-a-lifetime humongous love, total soulmate and a revelation. The couple have published several books together – (Māori Made Fun; Māori at Work; Māori Made Easy; and Māori at Home) – and are parents to Hawaiki, 16, Kurawaka, 14 and Maiana, 10.

She has also published her own award-winning children’s book, My First Words in Māori, and has another book in the offing, My First Words about Tikanga Māori.

“Growing up there weren’t as many Māori language books so Scotty and I try and offer things that will bring te reo Māori into people’s lives and homes in a way that they can pick up at their convenience,” says Morrison. “Hopefully it will give them some confidence and a knowledge base so that they are a little bit more equipped. We just want to make it easier and do our bit for te reo.

And while the couple have multiple book titles between them, it’s been a natural and beautiful progression – though an unexpected one. “There’s definitely no kind of plan. We didn’t go empire-building,” laughs Morrison.

“We are just really grateful for what we’ve been taught and hope to offer something to others in a way that we’ve been offered it.”

Through the Origins TVNZ series, Scotty has also been on a deeply personal journey to find out who the first people in Aotearoa were, where they came from and how they got here.
“Growing up in Christchurch they used to talk about the four [colonial] ships as the important voyagers, and I still recognise my Nana Joyce and Grandad coming from England for six weeks in the 1950s was huge. However, there was brilliance of every ancestor to get here. If you don’t recognise that, the damage is that you miss an opportunity for people to feel proud about where they come from. Origins provides clarity that our Māori ancestors were the best of the best to get here and yet you look at the paintings of Goldie and it’s like they accidentally sort of landed here and you’ve got to laugh or else cry, because it’s just ridiculous.”

Stacey wears NOM*d tee and vintage Karen Walker skirt.

Celebrating Matariki

When New Zealand celebrated the first Matariki national holiday in 2022, she and Scotty were part of the national Matariki Broadcast, a multiplatform event broadcast from The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, Wellington. The couple will be helping present the Matariki Broadcast again this year from Rotorua on July 14.

Morrison describes the inaugural Matariki Broadcast being as emotional.

“It was just exceptionally special and healing, and a privilege to be part of. It’s a precious memory,” she says.

She is happy that her kids will look back and be amazed that there was ever a time when people didn’t know about Matariki or celebrate it in Aotearoa. The family is looking forward to feasting after this year’s Matariki Broadcast as well as looking to the stars

“The best thing is there’s always feasts, there’s lots of kai. There’s celebration and ceremony, and literally looking at the stars, which I think is really good for us,” she says. “Those moments of intentional stopping and presence and observation is something that Matariki offers us. To look up as a human and engage with the environment and consider what it is saying to you and how you are engaging with it. Depending on how you relate to it and whatever words you apply to it, it’s a mindfulness that’s really helpful.”

Matariki is also a time when the environment tells us what to plant, when to harvest and is in sync with our winter, unlike Santa Claus at Christmas wearing an outfit that’s completely inappropriate for our summer, she laughs.

“This is about us, and we can tailor it to exactly what it means for us,” says Morrison. “Because we recognise each of the stars it gives us an opportunity to look to those we have lost in the last year with Pōhutukawa and recognise our grieving, which I think is healthy – to reset and check in on how you are feeling and what your grief journey might be if you’ve lost someone. And then with Hiwa-i-te-rangi to make our intentions and wishes for the year ahead. It’s powerful and is something everyone can do in their own way and have their own kind of practice around.”

Rising at 4.30am every morning to meet her commitments on Flava Breakfast, Morrison is used to getting up pre-dawn, a powerful time of day traditionally greeted with a karakia at dawn ceremonies.

Stacey wears red silk dress from Maggie Marilyn archive.

Wellbeing rituals

Juggling family and teaching commitments adds to the pressure, so setting aside time each day to have a 20-minute nap is a daily wellbeing ritual that she calls her “control, alt, delete” reset.

It is a part of the day that she looks forward to, though she doesn’t do it at a set time and works her naps around her schedule.

“I’ll admit to having had a nap in the car as I’m waiting outside school,” she laughs. “But I’m not a good napper. I don’t know if you’ve seen those photos of Taika Waititi being a serial napper in all sorts of places? I’m not good like that. I can’t just nap anywhere. I just mindfully go to bed, set my alarm, and know that I pretty much have to move as soon as I get up. It definitely helps me get by.”

A lot gets crammed into the Morrison’s schedule so the couple are grateful to have some flexibility in their working life as well as the opportunity to work together, which they really treasure. They try and keep weekends for whānau and they walk to the gym together. At present Morrison is particularly focused on weights, which she also has at home, because weight-bearing activity helps bones become stronger and more dense, lowering the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis.

She’s also a fan of “treat massages”. “I’m all for the Chinese massages. They’ve nailed it and I’m stoked to be part of their ancient knowledge and receiving the benefits,” she laughs.

Morrison is an ambassador for Breast Cancer Foundation NZ, too, and since age 27 she’s had regular mammograms as well as doing her own breast self-checks. “My sisters and I had to become mothers without mum around. It feels like a purposeful way to honour her and help others, hopefully. If I can offer a message, an opportunity or empathy for others who have lost someone they adored, then there’s power in that – to make the intention to look after yourself and use the best possible research and opportunities available at this time to stay well.”

Stacey wears Sweepstake Winners ‘Stacey’ dress.

A million speakers

She brings that same compassion and understanding to the te reo Māori classes she and Scotty team teach and encourages all to have a go. Her advice is to stay open-hearted – don’t shame yourself, and try to meet the discomfort that’s going to come with the challenge.

“We’re talking about a million speakers by 2040 and we’ve all got to get amongst it. It’s a unifying opportunity for us all,” she says. “People use the word ‘whānau’ because it means a lot to us and we relate to it. We say ‘Aotearoa’ as it just feels like the best way to express us. It is the language of this land. Even if you just say kia ora, which is literally wishing people good health in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy. It has a kind of power and lilt and vibration that people like, and it’s a way for us all to lean into it.”

Spread the love
Rate This Article:
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up to our email newsletters for your weekly dose of good