Kiwis embrace te Reo Māori

12 Sep, 2023
Kiwis embrace te reo Māori

It’s been 36 years since the Māori Language Act legally declared te reo Māori an official language of Aotearoa.

Since then, the desire – and opportunity – to learn and engage with the Māori language has strengthened and grown; today, around a quarter of Māori children can now speak the language, reflecting the success of efforts to revitalise Māori. Here at AUT, the impact is also evident: a course focused on Māori protocols in business recently generated such high demand, the organisers had to add an extra session and book a bigger venue.

AUT Business School Professor Ella Henry (Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kuri) spoke with the online magazine, HR Director, about the changes she has seen in how Kiwis embrace te reo Māori and te ao Māori — Māori language and culture.

“I’ve been able to watch over the last 30 years the growth in interest in learning te Reo, not just from Māori people but non-Māori,” Professor Henry says.

“There’s a significant chunk of New Zealand who are now more comfortable around te reo Māori who often have children or grandchildren who are going to schools where they're learning the language and the culture, or seeing the language and culture being personified in activities like the All Blacks’ haka, Te Matatini Kapa Haka competitions, or through Māori Television," she says.

“Air New Zealand is a classic example. They not only utilise the koru, the silver fern frond as their brand, but when you hop onto a plane — domestic or international — you will be greeted in the Māori language. Now, that's been a very conscious choice of Air New Zealand.”

Professor Henry says this shift to embracing te reo and te ao Māori is a “net positive” for the language and the culture.

“I feel that every step in the direction of a more multicultural, multi-linguistic nation is a positive move. There’s no endpoint, it's not a race. I've lived long enough to know that change that embraces diversity and difference, and embraces Māori language and culture, is positive — regardless of how quickly or slowly it happens.

“The whole point is that it is aspirational, rather than prescriptive — that we want people to embrace this as a way of growing their capabilities.”

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