Compulsory Te Reo Māori debate fails to address key problems, say critics

Māori language week was celebrated last week and the key issue in the media was a debate on whether Te Reo Māori should be made compulsory in New Zealand schools. Mike Mohr of Asia Pacific Journalism reports.

Amid the debate over the issue of compulsory Te Reo Māori lessons in New Zealand schools that intensified last week, many arguments and opinions for and against were voiced.

Many New Zealanders support the idea of te reo being introduced more widely into schools, with overwhelming media coverage in support for compulsory Te Reo be implemented into the New Zealand core school curriculum by 2025.

But the question that has not yet been answered is whether it is possible or realistic, and the views of some who do not agree with the notion of compulsion have not yet been fully voiced.

READ MORE: Te Wiki o te Reo Māori 


It is an ongoing debate that has divided many New Zealanders in support of its implementation and those opposed to Te Reo being made compulsory.

Figures in 2013 showcased a drop in the numbers of Te Reo speakers in New Zealand by 4 percent in 17 years.


Among those opposing compulsory Te Reo is Renata, a student teacher in her final year of study of bilingual primary teaching (Māori and mainstream). She believes that implementation will be complex.

Not enough teachers specialising in the subject area is her concern.

‘Lack of teachers’
“There is already a lack of teachers, where are we going to find the teachers,” she says.

She adds that there is a need to focus more on supporting current speakers and teachers in the subject instead on using compulsion because currently there is such a shortage in the number of teachers.

There are many challenges ahead if it is made compulsory, she believes.

“What’s stopping us implementing Te Reo without it becoming compulsory? Do we need to force Te reo upon people to make them understand the importance or is it already becoming a choice of importance at people’s own free will.”

Tapa, a student of Māori law studies, is opposed to the idea of compulsory te reo in New Zealand.

“I think te reo should not be made compulsory, I do not like the term compulsory,” says Tapa, citing the “immense resources” that will be needed.

“Kura (School) are not always producing high level reo users, most rangatahi (young people) won’t even reply in reo. I think spend the money improving existing structures to a higher level,” he says.

To roll out nationwide implementation of Te reo into the New Zealand school system would cost a lot of time, money and resources, training and maintenance where there is already a struggling system to deliver basic modalities.

More support
“I think, and my reasons are influenced by Dr Tīmoti Kāretu that existing speakers of Reo should be supported to improve what they know and brought up to a higher level.”

There is not a set dollar amount for how much the government spends each year on te reo, but the general conservative figure is more than $100 million a year.

“That funding and resources should be spent in avenues where reo is already active to get it to a higher level and used consistently instead of mass production of mediocre speakers.”

Tapa has a suggestion for those wanting to learn Te Reo: “I think if you want your kids to learn Te Reo, send them to kohanga, and enrol yourself in Reo courses, and embrace te ao Māori (Māori world)”.

Concern for the quality of teaching and for potential students not being provided the full philosophy of the Māori view point and cultural emulsification into te reo will not be achieved by just providing teachers that know the language.

“If any random teacher was given just the language to speed up the process of teaching children, then it has no wairua (spiritual connection) attached to it.”

Māori culture
Te reo Māori does not come alone, it comes with te ao māori (Māori world), whakaaro Māori, tikanga, kawa and many other aspects unique to Māori culture, language and beliefs.

All these will have an effect on each and every single one of these Te Reo meōna tikanga (Competence in speaking, writing, comprehension, structure and the application of Te Reo Māori me ona tikanga) is integrate to have reo, substance and identity.

“We don’t give that just to anyone, especially if it against their will and do not have respect for the culture let alone the language,” he says.

There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel as more and more people throughout the country are willing to make the effort to learn Te Reo.

“Statistics are showing that there has been a major influx of people all over New Zealand wanting to learn Te Reo Māori,” says Renata.

She believes that more resources and funding is needed to support current speakers and to support people who are passionate about wanting to learn Te Reo.

Importance realised
“People who want to learn and are now learning to recognise the reality of its importance,” she says.

Renata understands the amount of work that will be needed for it to be implemented is a huge up taking and everyone needs to do their part to preserve the language.

But, people need to choose for themselves and those who are passionate about learning Te reo need to be supported and encouraged with the proper resources made available to facilitate learning.

“It is up to us as an individual, as a whānau, and as an iwi to maintain that as tangata whenua, it is not the responsibility of others to bring back something that we as a collective need to learn ourselves and pursue,” Renata says.

Current arguments fall to the need for New Zealanders to learn more about Māori point of views and learning a second language will support cognitive development in young children in their development.

There seems to be a lot of agreement that having a second language should be promoted and encouraged for school children.

Fear over choice
A lot of the fear of many parents is not being able to be given a choice on the second language their young one will learn.

Not many people are denying the importance of Māori culture and language in New Zealand, and is the duty of New Zealanders under the treaty to treasure and maintain the language for future generations, say advocates.

But a realistic discussion and debate on how to implement it will be beneficial for all.

While there seems to be a lot of emotion when the topic is discussed, no real attempt is being made to justify to the wider public the need for Te Reo to be compulsory without logical arguments to appease the fear of wider New Zealand.

Mike Maatulimanu Mohr is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Learning te reo Māori a pathway to Aotearoa’s culture and history

Eden created an online series for Te Karere voicing the political views of youth. Video: AUT

By Michael Neilson, Māori affairs reporter of the New Zealand Herald

Advocates for boosting te reo levels in Aotearoa say it provides a gateway to greater cultural, historical and racial understanding.

Minister for Crown/Māori Relations Kelvin Davis says he would love to see all New Zealanders feeling comfortable in Māori spaces, with te reo Māori being the key.

“To go on marae and feel comfortable, engage in things like Waitangi Day, Kororneihana, and Rātana. It is only daunting when there is ignorance and lack of understanding about what is going on.”

Davis says Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a “bridge” connecting te ao Māori and Pākehā, with language, customs and culture on each side.

“Since 1840 who has crossed that bridge? Māori have crossed over, how many have come back the other way? Some people have, and we are really grateful for that, but it has been one-way traffic mainly.”


Due to that one-way traffic, and consequent ignorance of Māori language and culture, there is often tension. Learning te reo would help reduce the ignorance about Māori issues, and what it is to be Māori, Davis says.

Growing up in a monolingual household, Davis, of Ngāti Manu descent, said he felt “something was missing”.

‘Felt embarrassed’
“I felt embarrassed going on to our marae, not knowing what was being said.”

He took it up at high school, maintaining it through his adult life. He said he was about a “7.5 out of 10” in terms of fluency.

Speaking Māori gives confidence in who you are as Māori New Zealander, and leads on to other understanding of whakapapa, and history, Davis said.

“It is hard to engage in te ao Māori without knowing the language. You can know tikanga, customs, attitudes, but the cream on top is te reo.”

Head of Auckland University of Technology’s School of Language and Culture, Associate Professor Sharon Harvey, says learning a second language helps people understand different points of view.

“If New Zealand had embraced Māori earlier on we would be seeing the benefits of seeing things from different perspectives. Our determined rejection has not helped.”

Te reo Māori is closely linked to other Pacific languages.

Pacific access
“It gives access to Pacific languages like Tahitian, Cook Island Māori, and a little more distant to Tongan and Samoan.”

While New Zealand promotes itself as being bicultural, it has never extended that ambition to being bilingual, Dr Harvey says.

“I think Māori would say the intent of the Treaty was never for the language of this land to be lost, and replaced with a language from the other side of the world. We really can’t be bicultural unless we are bilingual.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says her grandmother had te reo “beaten” out of her. Image: Michael Craig/ New Zealand Herald

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says te reo is a “core” part of the future of race relations in Aotearoa.

Davidson’s grandmother had literally had the language beaten out of her, and it had taken three generations to get over the trauma.

“Her children didn’t learn, and neither did we, and now it has taken our children to finally reclaim it.

“Te reo is core to healing, core to the future of our race relations. It gives us something unique, to be proud of, together.”

Adult learning
Davidson (Ngāti Porou, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi) started learning te reo properly as an adult, and even made a decision to only speak te reo to one of her daughters – now 10 – since birth.

Te reo offers an insight to the Māori worldview, offering different perspectives, Davidson says.

“Things like there being no gender pronouns in te reo, in itself says something profound about accepting or rejecting narrow sexual identities.

“Another example is mokopuna, which literally means wellspring of descendants. Te reo offers the opportunity to understand those things.”

National’s Māori development spokesman Nuk Korako says te reo is like the country’s “flora and fauna”.

“It is like the kauri – it is unique, rooted in this country’s fabric. Why wouldn’t we want to learn te reo?”

Korako, of Ngai Tahu descent, grew up in a monolingual household, with parents part of the generation “not allowed to speak Māori”.

Te reo compulsory
He learned his reo at St Stephen’s College in Bombay, south of Auckland, where te reo was a compulsory subject.

“I remember on my first day there were guys from Tūhoe having a conversation in te reo. I had heard it on the marae growing up, but it was fascinating to hear it in a daily context.”

He says increasing cultural and history understanding would foster interest in te reo.

“One of the most important things with rangatahi in New Zealand, is that they have a really good understanding and grounding of Māori culture and history, because it then gives them that appreciation to the language of the culture.”

Te Taura Whiri (Māori Language Commission) chairwoman Professor Rawinia Higgins says learning te reo would give Kiwis a better understanding of who we are as a nation.

“It is our first language, so helps define who we are. It is also a defining feature of who we are in a global context.

“A significant feature of our national game is the haka, and that is in te reo. On the international stage people are interested in it for that unique element.”

Higgins, who is also Victoria University of Wellington’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori), says language and culture go hand in hand.

“With te reo, Te Tiriti comes into it as well. It helps open up a different perspective over some of our historical encounters, and move forward overall.”

This article is republished from the New Zealand Herald with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Kupu: New app translates objects into te reo Māori

Te Rina Kowhai reports for Te Karere. Video: TVNZ

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

A new app developed by Spark and Google in conjunction with the Research Team of the Te Aka Māori – English, English – Māori Dictionary in Te Ipukarea ~The National Māori Language Institute, has taken New Zealand by storm this Māori Language Week, reports AUT News.

Kupu – an app that allows users to scan their surroundings, take photos of everyday objects and offers the te reo translation – has landed extensive media coverage since its launch on Monday and has been downloaded thousands of times.

Te Ipukarea director Professor Tania Ka’ai of Auckland University of Technology served as project lead and worked closely with Spark and Colenso BBDO, Spark’s Creative Team, to develop the resource from the time they requested to embed Te Aka in the app to its completion.


For Professor Ka’ai, Kupu symbolises the legacy of her colleague, mentor and friend Professor John Moorfield, who died in March.

“Spark first approached John late last year,” Tania explained. “They needed a solid, reliable and comprehensive set of Māori words to integrate into the app – and saw John’s Te Aka Māori -English, English- Māori Dictionary as the best tool for the job.”


The team at Te Ipukarea sourced and provided a set of nouns and adjectives that underpin the app’s te reo lexicon. They also provided the audio versions of these words to ensure that Kupu users can hear the correct pronunciation.

“The team and I worked hard to get the best possible collection of words and phrases together in time for the app’s launch,” Professor Ka’ai said.

“One of John’s final projects was a Dictionary update and to help finish that off in time for the Kupu launch we spent five days in a recording studio with a native te reo speaker and recorded a further 6,500 new words. It was an exhausting, but necessary process.”

Now that Kupu is in the public sphere, Professor Ka’ai and her team are involved with reviewing feedback and fine-tuning any niggling issues.

“We’ve received so much positive feedback already,” Professor Ka’ai said. “Its incredibly gratifying to know that it has made people happy. Kupu really is for all New Zealanders – not just Māori – and I’m glad that the app is another step in normalising te reo in this country.”

And since the official launch at the start of Te Wiki o te Reo Māori / Māori Language Week Tania has been proud of the team’s efforts.

“It really is a proud moment for us, and I think John would have been proud of the final product too.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Lifetime of devotion to Māori and Pacific student success

Tui O’Sullivan (right) with Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop at the Pacific Media Centre recently when retiring. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

PROFILE: By Leilani Sitagata

Educator and kuia Tui O’Sullivan has recently retired from Auckland University of Technology after close to 40 years of service.

Born and breed up North in the heart of Ahipara, she says choosing to do tertiary study was the right choice for her.

“Growing up as a young girl you were told to pick from three directions – academic, commercial or homecraft,” O’Sullivan says.

“I never had a burning desire to become a teacher, but it just seemed like the best fit for me to follow that path.”

Over the years, O’Sullivan (Te Rarawa and Ngati Kahu) gained a Bachelor of Arts, Master’s in Education (Māori), a Diploma in Ethics and a Diploma in Teaching.

“Coming from a town where you didn’t know names, but everyone was Aunty or Uncle, Auckland was by far a change of scenery.”


O’Sullivan was appointed as the first Māori academic at AUT, then AIT.

Tui O’Sullivan at her recent Auckland University of Technology farewell on Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Evening classes
She says she taught evening classes on literacy twice a week and had many people from the Pacific wanting to improve their written and oral skills.

“A number of them were members of church groups who wanted to polish up for competitions involving writing and speaking.”

Alongside the night classes, O’Sullivan was involved in the formation of the newspaper Password.

“We formed a newspaper which explained certain things about living in New Zealand, among other things like the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori culture.”

O’Sullivan says there was an increasing number of immigrants to her English classes and Password helped with their immersion into a new culture.

While working in general studies, she says she helped teach communications English and basic skills to full time students, predominantly young men.

However, women started to come along to O’Sullivan’s teaching and the numbers slowly grew.

Tui O’Sullivan (right) with fellow foundation Pacific Media Centre advisory board member Isabella Rasch. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

First women’s group
O’Sullivan was part of the creation of the very first women’s group on campus.

“A senior lecturer approached a couple of us women staff asking if we could keep an eye out for the young women and be an ear should they need that.

“From there Women on Campus developed which looked after the interests of women students and staff members.”

She said they switched the name of the group over the years because what they originally chose didn’t have a ring to it.

“We were called Women’s Action Group for a while, but WAG didn’t sound too good.”

Another first for the university was the establishment of the Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae in 1997 which Tui said she’ll forever remember.

When the marae was officially opened more than 1000 people turned up to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Students and staff at the Pacific Media Centre’s farewell for Tui O’Sullivan. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Emphasis on diversity
The marae opening signified AUT acknowledging the Treaty of Waitangi and further emphasised the diversity within the university.

“The majority of staff here have had this willingness and openness to support and promote success for Māori and Pacific students.”

When asked what was one of the most gratifying times for her during her time at AUT, O’Sullivan simply says applauding the young people who cross the stage.

“I always seem to end up with lots of those lolly leis because people end up with so many, and they get off-loaded to me.”

O”Sullivan says that over the years she’s never missed a graduation for her faculty regardless of how many there are.

“Seeing students wearing their kakahu or family korowai, and others who have grown to learn more about their whakapapa and their place in the world.

“Those are the most rewarding times for me.”

O’Sullivan was the equity adviser for the Faculty of Creative Technologies and lectured in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and community issues. She was also a strong advocate of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and a foundation member of the advisory board for AUT’s Pacific Media Centre from 2007.

She insists she hasn’t left a legacy but has been part of an ever evolving journey that AUT is going through.

Tui O’Sullivan (centre) with Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie and advisory board chair Associate Professor Camille Nakhid. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Gender and diversity research at AUT turns 10

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Gender and diversity research at AUT turns 10

By Helen Twose in Auckland

Auckland University of Technology’s Gender and Diversity Research Group has reached a significant milestone, celebrating 10 years of research and debate on gender and diversity issues within the community.

Formed in 2007 with the aim of establishing a network of researchers within (and beyond) AUT who share an interest in gender and diversity, the research group has developed a thriving research community the institution and internationally through an active research programme of applied and theoretical research, and contributing to new approaches to gender and diversity research in the academic community.

The group commemorated the significant milestone with a research day that included reflection and looking backwards as well as looking forward and imagining new futures for gender and diversity research, said Professor Judith Pringle, founder of the Gender and Diversity Research Group.

“Particularly pleasing was the high attendance from a broad range of people, from academics to those outside the university, including business community and NGOs, who have a very high commitment to reducing inequality among groups, organisations and society,” Professor Pringle said.

Beginning with a keynote from Professor Pringle looking at the evolution of gender and diversity research over the last 30 years, which has fed into the strong establishment of gender and diversity research at AUT, the day included an in-depth discussion from emerging scholars looking at the importance of Māori research and knowledge and its place in academia, the #MeToo movement, and the role of arts in gender and diversity research.

Turning to the future, the group envisioned an “ideal” world without gender and diversity inequality, and how to get there. In the words of one participant: “My two favourite ideas I took from the day are the need to build strong networks within your community of work and the re-imagining of research”.

Event organisers, Dr Katherine Ravenswood and Dr Barbara Myers, said that while the group’s success and longevity was significant – especially in an environment which has seen the demise of Women’s Studies programmes and research groups at universities in New Zealand – it was also confronting.

Valuing Te Ao Māori research
In spite of increased attention to issues of discrimination, the topics addressed on the day, such as sexual harassment, the valuing and contribution of Te Ao Māori research, gendered occupational segregation and glass ceilings, were just as pertinent as 10 years ago.

“The need for the critical, brave research this research group conducts has not diminished. As participants discussed we need to continue to build communities, develop new research methodologies, and to continue to tell the stories and experiences of women from a feminist perspective,” they said.

Key research undertaken by the group includes :

  • Submission on the 2017 Draft Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill and research into the gendered valuing of work
  • Research into the careers of older women self-initiated expatriates
  • Commissioned research into women’s careers in the professions, such as law
  • Supporting the development of feminist teaching and research through development workshops
  • Postgraduate scholarships to encourage new and emerging researchers