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A treasure from ancient times, and for tomorrow

From partnering with tv soap Shortland Street to a project encouraging staff to develop and share their own pepeha, the University of Auckland, Waipapa Taumata Rau, is celebrating Māori Language Week as part of its commitment to the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

Initiatives throughout all areas of the University have been developed to expose staff and students to te reo and to celebrate the way ‘Te Reo Māori is Woven into our Journey - Kōtuia tahitia ai te reo Māori me te ahu whakamua’.

Ihonuku Pro Vice-Chancellor Māori, Associate Professor Te Kawehau Hoskins says that while the focus of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is a national one, for the University of Auckland it provides a good reminder of the commitment to an enduring relationship with tangata whenua based upon Te Tiriti o Waitangi as outlined in the strategic plan Taumata Teitei.

“The University’s language revitalisation strategy has set a goal of 50 percent of staff having the ability and confidence to demonstrate a basic level of competency in te reo, by 2040. While our people shouldn’t stress about not being fluent in te reo Māori they should be open-minded to learning it and to Māori ways of thinking.

“That’s being able to listen to people speaking in Māori and getting the gist because they have familiarity, and maybe have some basic short conversations, do a short mihi, and be able to self-identify. It’s also an understanding of concepts, like manaakitanga (enhancing the mana of others).”

And while staff cultural competence is part of the University’s plan Associate Professor Hoskins believes it’s more than just being able to deliver a pepeha.

“One of my main messages is that it’s not just about how much Māori you know, although that is something we encourage. This is about an enduring and positive orientation to the Māori world. Aotearoa should celebrate diversity and unity. We need to embrace the idea of how much richer our worlds are with two cultures.

“Māori don’t want everyone to be Māori, they want people to think positively about how to have productive relationships with Māori. That includes this University as a starting point. We want a place where the Māori world flourishes, and we all move in a positive direction.”

The other goals of the revitalisation plan are: By 2024 all existing staff will have participated in professional development for te reo Māori learning, and by 2025 all students will have the option of a te reo Māori course in their programme of study

During Māori Language Week staff and students have been encouraged to develop their own pepeha – sharing their connections with the people and places important to them. Local iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei recently gifted the University a new Māori name – Waipapa Taumata Rau – which does the same for the University.

Staff communications will include a range of te reo Māori words and phrases, and media stories released by the University that week will be provided in te reo Māori as well as in English. Some other planned activity, including progressing the bi-lingual signage around the campuses has been postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

Michael Steedman, Kaiarataki from the office of the PVC Māori, will be holding a te reo class webinar open to all staff and students as part of the national Māori Language Moment at 12 noon, Tuesday 14 September.

Partnering with the Shortland Street programme, which is also focussing on te reo Māori during the week, has provided another opportunity to champion the normalisation and
celebration of te reo Māori across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ko te manu e kai i te miro nōna te ngahere, Ko te manu e kai i te mātauranga, nōna te ao.
The bird that eats the miro berry owns the forest. The bird that feasts on knowledge owns the world.

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