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Budget 2006: Help to revitalise Pacific languages

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Pacific Island Affairs

Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban
Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs

Help to revitalise Pacific languages

The government will spend $600,000 over the next three years on a programme to revitalise the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau languages that are at risk of becoming extinct in New Zealand.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Associate Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said Budget 2006 would fund an expansion of their Ministry's successful Mind Your Language pilot involving the Niue community last year.

"The 2001 census found only six per cent of Cook Islanders, 12 per cent of Niueans and 30 per cent of Tokelauans born in New Zealand could hold an everyday conversation in their mother tongue," Phil Goff said.

"The people from all three island groups are New Zealand citizens and the centre of population of each group is now in New Zealand.

"Those languages risk being lost within the next 30 years if cultural knowledge and language skills cannot be maintained and passed onto younger generations. Given the small populations still resident in the islands, this put the culture and language heritage of these areas are at risk.

"The key aim of Mind Your Language is to build a critical mass of people who are able to hold every-day conversations in the tongue of their forebears.

"The funding will see resources developed for Cook Island and Tokelau tutors who are fluent speakers but not necessarily teachers, and it will also allow a new group of learners from the Niue community to undertake the programme.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said helping Pacific languages to survive and flourish was an important part of New Zealand’s identity as a Pacific nation.

"At a practical level it also allows people to fully participate in symbolic family and cultural activities, which in turn helps builds strong, confident communities."

ENDS

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