New Zealand Labour Party

Te reo Maori is a very special taonga that must be treasured


I am very proud to be Maori and so te reo Maori is a very special taonga that must be treasured.

For me, it helps strengthen my identity and validates who I am. For example I am takatāpui - a word in our language for Māori who are non-heterosexual, gay, lesbian, transgender or gender diverse.

Our terminology, in our language, helps to give me a solid base of identity, immersed in our indigenous language which supports my existence both in the past, today and in the future.

My Māori language story is very similar to many other families’. My father was born in the mid 1940s and grew up in the 50s and 60s when assimilation policies were the norm. It was a time when they were caned in school for speaking Māori – the language was beaten out of them.

I was born in 1972 and am the eldest of four children in our family. Understandably, based on his experiences, my father was very focused on us getting an education through the pakeha system and being successful in the pakeha world.

By the time my baby sister started school the revival of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori was well under way, largely thanks to te Kōhanga Reo.

She went to St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College in Napier and is fluent in te reo, is kapa haka competent and sings in our Waitahanui Ratana choir.

My experience in the late 1970s and the 80s was different and my proficiency in te reo Maori is not as competent as I would like. I do not believe that makes me any less Māori. Being Māori is about whakapapa, that gives you your maunga, awa, moana, taonga passed on from our tupuna. But, te reo gives you a depth and breadth of experience and communication about being Māori that I have yet to fully experience.

However, today, all young people have the opportunity to be embraced by our language and culture. I strongly support the themes of Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori - Māori Language Week in encouraging parents to learn te reo to help their children with their learning so that whanau are learning together. 

Māori is a language that should not be taught in isolation. The principle of te Kōhanga Reo is that parents learn with their children – that is the environment that allows te reo Māori to flourish.

So, in holding the Youth portfolio for our party, my kupu for the week will be that of support and encouragement for all our rangatahi to achieve their dreams and aspirations. In striving to achieve, our young people cannot be successful without the support of whanau and community and it is only through this support that our language will be carried forth for the next generation.