Mary Kamo is a good Ōtepoti girl who moved to Ōtautahi in 1958 and discovered a rather infamous coffee bar owned by a local Māori musician, Raynol Kamo, who she went on to marry. Together they have five adult children.
Through her extensive involvement in the local community, Mary was invited to take on the role of Prison Chaplain to the Christchurch Women’s Prison, then later to Paparua (Christchurch Men’s Prison) and Rolleston Prison as well. She describes it as a “richly educational and
“I’ve never been quite sure who learned the most from it, me or the women prisoners. I was warmly received, respected, trusted, and looked after.”
While Mary retired from her Chaplain role earlier this year, she remains the current chair of the Care and Protection Resource Panel in Christchurch. She and Ray are the official kaumātua for the Pillars organisation, which provides support for children and families with a loved one in prison.
What constitutes a good day?
Knowing that I’m loved and needed, no matter what goes right or wrong.
One thing you could not live without?
Who or what inspires you and why?
Father Jim Consedine (Catholic priest) because of his compassion for the poor, and his lifelong commitment to speaking out for justice.
Highlight in the last year and why?
The making, by women prisoners, and installation of Tukutuku panels in the Chapel of Christchurch Women’s Prison. The Chapel, in appearance, was very monocultural. Māori spirituality was not reflected there, despite the population of the prison being over 50% Māori. The project took many years to organise, mainly because of a lack of funding. I am grateful to the managers of the prison for their support.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Coffee seven days a week, in a coffee bar with a scone or muffin, and with a good book to read.
Favourite way to chill out?
Reading books. Birdling’s Flat beach where my husband and I lived in a family bach for two years after we were married. We are now returning to live there again.
Dance or wallflower?
Dance always. Loved ballroom dancing, rock’n’roll, jazz, the twist etc. Not so good at it these days though.
What food could you not live without?
What meal do you cook the most?
I am not a happy cook. Ray has always been the chef. When hard put to it I can produce a good feed of meat or fish with lots of vegetables.
Chasing, catching, and marrying my husband, and letting him think it was the other way round.
Do you have an aspiration for Ngāi Tahu to achieve by 2025?
As a Pākehā with a Ngāi Tahu husband and five Ngāi Tahu children my aspiration for Ngāi Tahu achievement is for all Ngāi Tahu children to know and stand proudly in their whakapapa and their tikanga.