Joanna Paul-Robie Reveals Terminal Illness at Matariki Ceremony

Former news presenter and beloved New Zealand TV personality Joanna Paul-Robie has shared the heartbreaking news that she is dying of terminal cancer. She made this emotional revelation while attending a Matariki ceremony, where she received the prestigious Icon Award for her contributions to the creative industries.

Joanna Paul-Robie, well-known as a newsreader on TV3, disclosed her diagnosis in an interview with Radio New Zealand on Friday. “I am, unfortunately, dying,” she stated, expressing the profound impact of receiving the award. “This award is the most honourable experience of my life.”

Receiving the Icon Award was particularly meaningful for Paul-Robie, as it came from her hometown of Tauranga Moana. “I was so touched because this award means so much to me coming from Tauranga Moana,” she said. She also acknowledged the significance of receiving such recognition while still alive. “To have this award before one posthumously gets it is an even better break.”

Paul-Robie was joined by her family as she accepted the award. “I can’t tell you the lightness, the brightness, the feeling of aroha inside me last night,” she shared, reflecting on the support and love she felt from her loved ones.

Throughout her illustrious career, Paul-Robie has been a trailblazer for Māori representation in New Zealand media. Starting her career in radio, she made her television debut with TVNZ’s Wildtrack in 1989 before becoming the breakfast newsreader for the newly launched TV3 channel. She later played a crucial role in establishing the publicly funded Māori Television channel, which began broadcasting in 2004.

Reflecting on her career, Paul-Robie acknowledged the challenges she faced as one of the few Māori women on New Zealand’s screens. “The newsroom was really… it was being run by mostly middle-class middle-aged white men who had the audacity and the balls to say ‘If it bleeds, it leads,’” she recounted. Despite these obstacles, she remained dedicated to bridging her Māori heritage with her work as a broadcaster.

In a 2011 interview with NZOnScreen, Joanna Paul-Robie looked back on over six decades in the media and filmmaking. “I’ve had this great career where I have worked in every part of television both onscreen and offscreen,” she said. She highlighted her involvement in significant events, such as the Gulf War, and her role in launching Māori TV. “There’s been a handful of people in the world who have built a television station and taken it to air,” she said. “Even though it nearly broke me in half on the day that we launched, I thought, ‘hell, we did that.’”

Paul-Robie’s announcement has touched many, as she remains a familiar face and voice in New Zealand’s media landscape. Her legacy as a pioneering Māori broadcaster and her significant contributions to the industry will be remembered long after her courageous battle with cancer comes to an end.

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