Mihingarangi Forbes was playing journalist at the age of eight. Growing up in Feilding, she would make up news and weather bulletins, then record herself reading them on a tape cassette machine. "I've always been the person who wants to be the bearer of news in my family. If something was going on when I was a kid, I would be the busybody and tell everyone what's up," Forbes told The Sunday Star-Times in 2015.
As a teenager, television reporting piqued her interest. "I do remember asking Mum when I was watching TV, 'What's that job called?' because it was never anything I saw at the careers day, which was nursing and teaching. I wasn't really interested in that."
The daughter of a Māori father and Pākehā mother, Forbes was loosely familiar with tikanga, but yearned to be fluent in Māori. At the age of 19, she moved to Hamilton to study a one year te reo immersion course at Waikato Polytechnic. "It was one of the most frightening but enlightening periods of my life."
At her course prize giving, TVNZ producer Moari Stafford invited Forbes to apply for an internship on Māori news programme Te Karere. She was accepted in 1994, leading her to turn down a place on Rotorua's Waiariki Polytechnic journalism course. Forbes spent two years cutting her television reporting teeth, before moving to short-lived Māori station Aotearoa Television Network, where her work as a producer included women's programme Wahine Toa and children's show E Tipu e Rea. She was also reporting for ATN's current affairs show Te Hēteri.
After a year, she returned to Te Karere. In 1998, she moved to Wellington to be the Māori Affairs reporter for One News. In 2001, after having her first child, she began at TV3, working as a producer for reporter Amanda Millar on current affairs show 20/20. She produced Millar's story on the abuse of toddler Hinewaoriki Karaitiana-Matiaha (known as Lillybing), which won a Qantas Media Award. Forbes credits Millar for helping her hone how to deal with people.
In 2005 TV3 lost the rights to 20/20. In the "best move I could ever have made", she was sent to TV3's new five day a week show Campbell Live. She is proud of the seven years she reported for the programme. One of her most high profile interviews was with Employers and Manufacturers Association Chief Executive Alasdair Thompson. He'd claimed previously that women's "monthly sick problems" made them less productive and therefore not entitled to equal pay. Forbes reminded him she had a period every month too. In 2007, Forbes won Best Current Affairs Reporting for a Daily Programme at the Qantas TV Awards, for her story 'Spider'.
In 2012 Forbes moved to Māori Television to produce te reo news show Te Kaea. When Native Affairs presenter Julian Wilcox moved into management in 2013, Forbes took his spot.
One of her most high profile Native Affairs stories was an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement at Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, the board for Māori language preschools. It brought about a government inquiry, and criticism from Māori. "We all got emails and calls saying 'just leave it alone' and 'why is a Māori organisation investigating another Māori organisation?'" she told The Sunday Star-Times in 2013. "We should be able to put a microscope on our own." The story won Best Investigative Reporting at the 2014 World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network Journalism Awards in Canada.
Forbes' ability to ask the hard questions has garnered respect from fellow reporters. In 2014 journalist Philip Matthews described Forbes as a gifted interviewer, whose skill "is to sit quietly, look unthreatening and then ask a sharp question. Being quiet can be more effective than being noisy."
Forbes resigned from Māori Television in 2015 after network executives canned a follow-up story to her kõhanga reo investigation. She was unhappy with "losing control" of her stories.
Back at Radio New Zealand, became a Māori correspondent in 2015. She worked with staff and management to increase use of te reo, and ensure its correct pronunciation. She left the station in March 2018.
In early 2016, Forbes returned to Three, and joined producer/reporter Annabelle Lee-Mather to launch new Māori current affairs programme The Hui. Since then Forbes has reported and presented some of her most challenging stories, like the sexual abuse cases in her story Ngā Mōrehu: Survivors of State Abuse. "When people open up and share their biggest secrets of abuse or death with me, every time it blows me away and humbles me." At the 2017 NZ TV Awards, The Hui won Best Māori Programme and was nominated for Best Current Affairs Show. Forbes took the award for Best Presenter in 2020, and in 2021 The Hui won in both of the above categories.
Forbes headed to Northland in 2017 to work on her documentary idea about a New Zealand Wars battle at Ruapekapeka pā. NZ Wars - The Stories of Ruapekapeka won Best Documentary, Best Māori Programme and netted Forbes Best Entertainment Presenter at the 2018 NZ TV Awards. The Waitara instalment of NZ Wars took the Māori Programme award in 2020. But most challenging was chronicling some of the dark events of 2021's Stories of Tainui. Forbes is Tainui herself. "The history of what’s in that soil, near the top of it and deep down inside of it, does get you going."
After 20+ years as a high-profile Māori journalist, Forbes says there aren't many like her around. "Māori are still sidelined from mainstream opportunities." As for women in top roles, "the women I know who are in key broadcasting positions are the hardest workers I know. This idea that the ledger is balancing up is in my experience not true, yet."
Profile written by Natasha Harris; updated on 3 March 2022
Shane Cowlishaw, 'Maori Television journalist Mihingarangi Forbes quits' - Stuff website. Loaded 5 June 2015. Accessed 30 August 2018
Duncan Greive, 'Duncan Greive: The Hui 'moving' despite attack on Mihi Forbes' - The NZ Herald, 15 April 2016
Leonie Hayden, ''This one was personal': Mihi Forbes on the new Tainui Wars documentary' (Interview) The Spinoff website. Loaded 3 March 2021. Accessed 3 March 2022
Paul Little, 'How Mihingarangi Forbes found her roots in 1993' (Interview) - The NZ Herald (Canvas liftout), 23 December 2017
Philip Matthews, 'Mihi Forbes: The quiet achiever' (Interview) - Your Weekend, 13 September 2014
Jess McAllen, 'Mihingarangi Forbes: back in control in her new role' (Interview) - The Sunday Star-Times, 12 July 2015
Sarah Nealon, 'The Hui's Mihingarangi Forbes on the biggest misconception about her' (Interview) - TV Guide, 10 March 2018
Unknown writer, 'Mihingarangi Forbes set to return to New Zealand TV screens' (Interview) - The Sunday Star-Times (Sunday liftout), 3 April 2016
Unknown writer, 'Twelve Questions: Mihingarangi Forbes' (Interview) - The NZ Herald, 26 February 2013