A lifetime of working recognised

16 Jun, 2010
A lifetime of working recognised
Te Ara Poutama's (the faculty of Maori Development) Professor John Moorfield.

AUT University’s own Professor John Moorfield was recognised for his work in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

He was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) in the 2010 list for his services to Māori language education.
To those around Te Ara Poutama's Prof Moorfield it was no surprise given he’s dedicated his working life to Māori language teaching. But to Moorfield himself he says he was surprised to receive the letter from Wellington offering him a QSO.

“I had to think about it for a while. There are a whole lot of reasons why you accept these things, not least of all for the effort people went to to nominate me.”

To Prof Moorfield the honour recognises that the Māori language is important and that people who are teaching the language are important.

“I’ve been working on the Te Whanake resources for 25 years and I guess it’s recognition for that long service. It’s always been a team of people working on it but basically the bulk of the work was done by me. I think it just recognises what I’ve been so heavily involved with my whole working life and I think in some ways it also acknowledges all the people who have helped me in the field.”

Te Whanake (the development) is the single largest set of digital language resources for any indigenous language in the world.

“I love working on resources for Māori Language learning. At the moment I’m using every spare moment I have working on the online dictionary adding example sentences to every entry I can. I’ve been working on it for eight months now and I’m up to the K’s so I’ve still got a fair way to go on that.”

Results, rather than rewards, are what drive Prof Moorfield. I think what I can produce and contribute to the maintenance and rejuvenation of Māori language is most important. It’s my main focus but it’s nice to have some recognition by people working in your field. It’s a nice spinoff and bonus.”

People with the level and skill of Prof Moorfield in Māori language are rare but he’s sure that, with the increased level of commitment from a growing number of people, the risk of the Māori language dying has been reduced.

“There’s been enough done so far to ensure people will speak it. I’m more concerned with the quality of the language that people speak. There’s more of a shift towards improving the quality of the language - putting some polish on it for people who speak relatively fluent Māori. Those people are going to be important in the future. I want to ensure the language survives but also that the language survives in a healthy state. It’s exciting being part of that.”