Te Ao Mārama was formed 26th May 1995 to address concern over the dismal state of Māori oral health highlighted by research. The association was ably led by foundation president Mrs Inez Kingi, kaumātua Mr. Pihopa Kingi and executive director Associate Professor John Broughton.
Te Ao Mārama takes its name from the historic Te Ao Mārama building in Ohinemutu, Rotorua where the first hui took place, and was conferred on the group by Ngāti Whakaue kaumātua Pihopa Kingi.
In 1996 the Te Ao Mārama logo was designed by Wayne Hapi. The two manaia (mythical creatures) are figures synonymous in the Māori culture with being guardian entities. In this whakaahua (illustration) the manaia are guardians of oral health, which is represented by the toothbrush and toothpaste. The intertwining arms of the manaia represent the seamless relationship between oral health, general health and spiritual wellbeing. The koru designs framing the manaia symbolise the nurturing of our vision, ‘Hei oranga niho mo te iwi Māori’ – Good oral health for Māori, for life.