Stan Walker's tribute: Aotearoa Music Awards 2024

Stan Walker collects his Te Manu Mātārae award, which he dedicated to his father, at the Aotearoa Music Awards at Viaduct Events Centre, May 30 2024. Photo / Emma Cooper, Stijl.

Stan Walker made an emotional tribute at the 2024 Aotearoa Music Awards to his late father who had died two days prior.

Taiaho Ross Walker, who was involved in coaching, training and recruiting for rugby league clubs in Melbourne, had been battling cancer.

Stan was awarded one of two inaugural Te Manu Mātārae Tūī awards on Thursday night. The new award spotlights artists who have made a considerable impact on New Zealand music.

Stan was recognised for the cultural impact of his single I AM, which featured in Ava DuVernay film’s Origin, and “his deep commitment to te reo Māori and te ao Māori” says host Jesse Mulligan.

The Te Manu Mātārae Tūī was presented by Tāme Iti, with Stan, seated in the audience, visibly emotional during Iti’s speech.

Coming up to collect his Tui, Stan admitted he was shocked. “I’m a little bit flabbergasted.”

“I know that my dad was the biggest cloud chaser. His name on Tik Tok was ‘Stan Walker’s Dad’. I want to dedicate this award to my papa.

“I’m just so thankful to be here because we’re here for our kaupapa, to bring hope, life, healing and joy to people regardless of what’s happening in our lives.”


A post shared by Russ Walker (@russwalker30)

“We can be amazing because of who we come from.

“This is for my kids, this is for my wife, this is for my dad, this is for Aotearoa, this is for our whanau.”

AMA co-host Kara Rickard told the audience Taiaho Walker died this week.

“I don’t know if everybody knows but his dad actually passed away a couple of days ago.

She thanked him for “for coming and supporting the kaupapa and like he says, his papa would have loved this.”

It is understood whānau held a service in Melbourne and he was then to be farewelled at Waikari Marae in Matapihi, Mount Maunganui.

He was to be buried at Mangatawa in Tauranga, family members shared on social media, amidst outpourings of condolences and grief.

Stan Walker performs during The Aotearoa Music Awards 2024 at the Viaduct events centre. Photo / Emma Cooper, Stijl.

Another of Taiaho’s sons, musician Russ Walker, says on Instagram this week he was taking his father back home from Melbourne to rest.

In a statement on Facebook, the Casey Warriors rugby league club, based in Melbourne, says Taiaho had been fighting cancer for what “seems like an eternity”.

“Taiaho played an important role in recruiting, training, and coaching members across various clubs, leaving an indelible mark on the sport we all love.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks for his steadfast support and never-ending commitment to rugby league. His dedication to our players and members was unparalleled, and he will be dearly missed.”

Dame Hinewehi Mohi and Stan Walker perform at the 2024 Aotearoa Music Awards at the Viaduct events centre. Photo / Emma Cooper, Stijl.

The NZ Kiwi Melbourne Tag Facebook page added: “Koro Taiaho was always there whenever or wherever we or you needed him. He did so much for many of us - emotionally, financially and with pure genuine support. We will miss him dearly and our hearts will never be the same without him.

“Your legacy will live on in the hearts of all who had the privilege to know and work with you.”

In recent years Stan has spoken about reconnecting with and forgiving his father, detailing his difficult childhood in the Bay of Plenty in his book Impossible: My Story, published in 2020, and revealed that “God changed his [father’s] whole life”.

Talking to the Herald on the red carpet earlier on Thursday, Stan was sentimental. “Music is the most powerful tool to change people’s lives and move people, to make people feel something.”

Stan delivered a powerful performance of I AM during the show and joined Dame Hinewehi Mohi on stage at the end of the night.

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