Moving forward together as one battalion is the very foundation the Rauawaawa Kaumātua Trust is built on and the same one that has created an innovative, award-winning way to increase their revenue.

The Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust was established in 1997 by a group of kaumātua identifying a need for more culturally focused, appropriate and accessible health, social and community-based activities and services for their age group. ‘Rauawaawaa’ means the waka with everyone inside, kaumātua and kaimahi sitting, paddling and moving forward together. There are currently 800 people aged 55 and over registered.

This trust is a collective who are always thinking ahead and making every decision, together, including the award-winning cookie cutters.


Rauawaawa Deputy Chief Executive, Donna Tilyard-Davis remembers when the idea first came to fruition.

“Together we knew baking is a great activity for those suffering from dementia, but cooking therapy never attracted Māori. So then we thought a Māori design could encourage kaumātua as well as be a useful resource in Rest Homes. With culinary therapy residents made a lot of biscuits, so that’s how the cookie cutter idea started evolving and then we went into the planning stage with kaumātua. Our first consultation was, if you could eat a cookie with a Māori design, what pattern should we not have? Well a whare was the most obvious. There are certain things you can’t eat.”

Chief Executive Rangimahora Reddy makes sure everyone has a voice at the table.

“This was a real collaboration between all of us. With the design of the first batch of cookie cutters we wanted to make them relevant to kai so we did Kete, Pāua and Pikorua (single twist). We used local businesses to help, we tested and tested them to make sure they’re easy to use, not sharp, but can cut through dough cleanly and look good.”

Donna has cooked hundreds of cookies over the years testing the different designs:

“The prototype phase is all about testing, trialing, checking colours and design with kaumātua – it’s never-ending because there are so many moving parts. Consultation with kaumātua is in anything that we do. If they don’t work smoothly then we keep going back to the design team until everyone is happy. There is also a small weight in each one which helps those suffering from arthritis or other disabilities, it means you don’t have to push as hard down onto the dough. These benefit both kaumātua and tamariki, as we have sold a lot in schools.”

The second generation of cookie cutter designs consisted of Koru, Hei Matau (Fish Hook) and Pikorua (double twist). The next designs are in the prototype phase: Pohutukawa, Kowhai and Kawakawa, which they hope to release before Christmas. The fourth-generation blueprint is already underway and includes a Tui. Another important factor is the colour of each Kuki Reka Kani, which is taken from the environments and locations important to kaumātua.

Donna is branching out from the website to make sales.

“We also do pop-up shops when we go away, especially to Wellington and we set up at Te Puni Kokiri. We are creating a Social Enterprise so that our funders can see we are making some pūtea ourselves. So far, we have raised just under $50,000 solely from cookie cutters. Who would have thought?”.

The Best Awards

In 2021 they submitted their first three Kuki Reka Kani into the prestigious Best Awards which are held every year by the Designers Institute of New Zealand. These awards recognise the best creative talent across the country ranging from multi-million-dollar advertising agencies to individual emerging designers.

To hear they were finalists both humbled and shocked Donna:

“When we saw the calibre of artists and the work that was produced we wondered what we were doing there with our little cookie cutters. For us it was an honour that we were blown away by. We went to the awards. We took some of our kaumātua who were able to come and it was an absolute privilege.”

Donna recalls how surprised they were to win Gold in the Toitanga Award Category and the Silver Public Good Award, which hang in their training and meeting room:

“We are so proud! Those awards remind us every day what we are capable of and how well we work together. And to have a CEO like Ranigmahora who embraces creativity and innovation is amazing – she’s a phenomenal leader who inspires us all the time.”

Right now, Donna and the Rauawaawaa team are focusing on their renovations and their kaumatua:

“With this new build it’s about having a facility that is kaumātua-friendly. Somewhere they can come, feel comfortable and take ownership because this is their space. We work for them; we provide for them and they just come and enjoy this place. It is about reducing their feeling of isolation and increasing their wellbeing. When you look at the journey of where we’ve come from and the vision going forward, there will never be an end. A project may end but there will always be another idea, another objective to focus on and we’ll do it together, as one unit, together”.