I’m learning te reo Māori (Māori language) to reconnect with my culture but also understand who I am as a person. Growing up in Taranaki, in a small place called Manaia, I went to Kōhanga (Māori language pre-school) as a kid until I was five. I then went to a primary school, and it was all English, so I lost some of my Māori and my connection to the culture. I’ve been trying to find a way to be more involved ever since I left uni.
That encouraged me to learn the language. At work at Fonterra I’m given heaps of opportunities that allow me to reconnect and strengthen my roots to my Māori heritage. It’s good to be able to speak more comfortably and fluently when opportunities like that come.
What has really impressed me is how far each of us has progressed in learning the language and Māori values, such as Manaakitanga and Whanaungatanga.
The opinion of the Māori language across Aotearoa is diverse. There are differing views on where it stands as part of who we are as a country. When I see the members in my class, and we are a very diverse group, most of them had never experienced anything to do with the Māori culture or language before. As they share their experiences they can encourage more to understand. Together we can be more unified as a community and people. My favourite whakatauki (proverb) is
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people