Wiremu NiaNia is of Tuwharetoa, Ngati Kahungunu, Tuhoe descent. He was born in 1949 and was adopted into the NiaNia whanau in Tiniroto (near Wairoa) where he was raised under the care and guidance of his kuia Te Awhimate NiaNia.
From as early as three years old, Wiremu was identified by Te Awhimate as having a fine spiritual awareness and she guided him very closely in mahi wairua practice and helping him interpret his experiences.
Even from his teenage years, he was frequently called on to assist people with mahi wairua. His kuia was considered a tohunga and Wiremu was apprenticed to her in her healing work, and continued to learn from her until her death when he was in his early 30’s.
During his life Wiremu has worked as a shearer, a fencer, a scrubcutter, a musician, a songwriter, a Maori activist and a youth worker. As a teenager he had close gang affiliations and had a period of time in prison. His youth work led to his enduring passion for assisting youth at risk.
In 2000, Wiremu began studying Mental Health with Indigenous Training and Consultants and was then employed on the Maori cultural therapy and assessment team at the mental health services in Gisborne. He completed his training in Oranga Hinengaro with Te Wananga o Raukawa and in early 2005, he moved to Porirua to take up a position as the cultural therapist at Te Whare Marie, Specialist Maori mental health service at Capital Coast District Health Board, where he remained until 2010. During this time he demonstrated his unique approach to mental health problems and spiritual distress and his role as cultural therapist became integral to the team.
In 2010 he asked Allister Bush (Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist) to collaborate with him on writing a book describing these approaches to Maori healing. In 2014, the unpublished manuscript won the prestigious Ashton Wylie Book Award. Tatai Hono: Stories of Maori Healing and Psychiatry was published in 2016. For more information on Wiremu and Allister's book, click here.
Wiremu has since become a well sought after presenter at numerous conferences, seminars, workshops and symposiums internationally and nationally, speaking on numerous topics including traditional healing in clinical settings.