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On the death of Dr Hirini Melbourne

On the death of Dr Hirini Melbourne, ONZM, distinguished Mâori scholar, musician, composer

“Dr Hirini Melbourne was a great New Zealander, a distinguished scholar and artist, and one of the most important Mâori musicians in a generation,” said Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Judith Tizard.

Judith Tizard said Dr Sydney (Hirini) Melbourne, who passed away on Monday at his family home in Hamilton after a long battle with cancer, made an enormous contribution to New Zealand’s cultural landscape.

“The range and depth of Hirini’s knowledge and activities in Mâori language, music, literature and historical research is formidable. Among his many achievements, he composed wonderful songs in te reo Mâori for both adults and children, served on arts boards, and contributed to film soundtracks and contemporary Mâori albums.

“Hirini has done so much to encourage and support new generations of Mâori to appreciate, respect and participate in their culture. He has the gratitude of all New Zealanders for his outstanding work in preserving and promoting traditional Mâori music and musical instruments, ensuring that this knowledge is not lost to us.

“Hirini participated at every level of cultural life. He was generous to students and fellow artists and he made a profound contribution to te reo, music and film.”

Dr Melbourne (Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu) was a board member of the New Zealand Film Commission and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission, and served as an assessor for Te Waka Toi and the Arts Board of Creative New Zealand over many years.

“Hirini made an enormous contribution to the work of these arts boards. His significant cultural knowledge and expertise has been of great benefit and he leaves the cultural sector richer and deeper through his work,” said Judith Tizard.

In 2002 the University of Waikato awarded Dr Melbourne its highest honour, an honorary doctorate, in recognition of his contribution to the University as a Dean and Associate Professor in the School of Mâori and Pacific Development.

He also received the prestigious 2002 Te Tohu Tiketiki a Te Waka Toi/Te Waka Toi Exemplary Award in recognition of his outstanding leadership and service to Maori arts and culture.

In the 2003 New Year Honours, Dr Melbourne was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Mâori language, music and culture.

“Hirini was a beloved husband, father and grandfather who will be sadly missed by his whanau and friends as well as the many thousands of New Zealanders whose lives he has enriched.

“My sympathy goes to his wife Jan, daughters Mahina and Maia, and grandchildren Amokura and Manukaimiro at this sad time.”

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