Now the woman affectionately known as “Aunty Ake” is being recognised for her contribution to public services and the community of the Cook Islands as a Queen’s birthday honours recipient. She is now a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Aunty Ake (nee Pokoati) was born in the village of Matavera, and began her public service career in 1959 as a teacher trainee at the Cook Islands Training College in Nikao.
In 1961, she graduated with a Cook Islands Teachers Certificate and an Infant Specialist Teaching Certificate. In the years that followed, she spent time teaching here and assisting a Play Centre on the island of Niue. In 1991, she attended the Auckland College of Education, focusing on Children with Special Needs and Disabilities. She graduated with a Diploma for Special Needs and a Higher Teaching Diploma.
Aunty Ake taught at Nikao Maori School, Avatea School, Avarua School and the Cook Islands Disabled Persons Society.
The Ministry of Education established a special needs unit at Avarua School for the purpose of mainstreaming children with special needs and disabilities, and she was employed as teacher in charge to lead this unit.
Aunty Ake was a founding member of the Cook Islands National Disability Council. She held the position of vice president and attended various regional conferences and workshops on the rights of persons with disabilities and human rights.
In 1984, along with other advocates, she became a founding member of the Cook Islands National Council of Women.
As a committee member, she represented the preschool organisation, Nikao School and Mitiaro (Nukuroa) Enua.
She was also part of a group of founding members of the Cook Islands non-government organisation (CIANGO), established in 1986, serving as vice president in 2010-2011 and in 2012, elected as patroness. CIANGO later became the Cook Islands Civil Society Organisations.
Aunty Ake is a member and strong supporter of the Mitiaro (Nukuroa) Hostel and community on Rarotonga.
Throughout her teaching and community involvement, she was entrenched in the political arena where she held many posts as a member, chairlady, delegate, committee member and recently in August 2018, was elected patroness of the Cook Islands Party.