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  • Writer's pictureCharisma Rangipunga

Embracing Reo Māori Every Day

There is an illuminated neon tiki face with a colourful protruding tongue proudly displayed in our NAIA tari. Clearly visible through our front window, it acts as default signage for our business (because we still haven’t gotten around to putting up our own branding). This tiki face was first created as the logo for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori a few years back and since then has become the ‘face’ of language revitalisation, proudly sported on hoodies, tops, bags, face masks and indeed on the walls of our humble suburban office.

This week NAIA has launched the second in a series of bilingual animated pūrākau. We know that most of our whānau are not fortunate enough to be fluent in te reo Māori, meaning that the audience for this version is smaller. It was still a no brainer for us to invest in our aspirations for te reo Māori by producing these resources in both languages, despite the additional effort and cost.

Last weekend our team facilitated a wānanga reo at Wairewa, my marae on Banks Peninsula. It was the first time in many years that we have had an event like this, and it was great to welcome over 70 whānau who have embarked on a journey to reclaim the language. These projects are not commercially oriented or lucrative in the usual sense, but they are a way we can give back and continue to support our people.

NAIA was not established specifically to promote te reo, despite my heavy involvement in this space for the last 20 plus years through Kotahi Mano Kāika, Ngāi Tahu’s reo Māori strategy, and in recent years as a commissioner of Te Taura Whiri. It is however a business that is proudly and positively Māori, that encourages our team and their whānau to take this concept and interpret its meaning for themselves. When it comes to the language, we create safe spaces for our whānau to learn, whatever level they are at. But te reo is not the bread and butter of our organisation, far from it.

As we mark 35 years since te reo Māori became an official language, we are delighted by the number of people who are taking up the challenge of learning and using the language. News and weather bulletins; greetings from Air New Zealand staff; bilingual signage; the restoration of place names; the release of the Lion King in te reo and the Waiata Anthems project which supports the release of top NZ hits in te reo Māori. As a language planner it is an exciting time and gives us great hope for the survival of our language. But New Zealand, we have a long way to go. Normalising te reo Māori in our everyday conversations is the only sure-fire method to prevent the further decline of the language.

With that in mind, NAIA is laying down a wero for other organisations out there who, like us, are not technically in the business of te reo Māori. We must all do our part to normalise te reo Māori within our workplaces, whether that’s by facilitating learning opportunities for our kaimahi, incorporating the language into our business practices or seeking out projects and partners that can strengthen our understanding. As the momentum of the Māori language movement grows, we have the opportunity to recognise te reo Māori as the asset – the taonga – that it truly is, and to invest in a future where it is uplifted and protected by all.

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