Sunday, September 10, 2017


Kia ora tatou!
Kua timata te Wiki o te Reo Maori! Kei te mihi ahau ki te reo tuatahi o Aotearoa. He mihi hoki ki a koutou e tautoko ana te kaupapa o te wiki nei.

There are few issues as contentious as the place and role of Maori language in the wider life of Aotearoa New Zealand at this time. Calls for te reo Maori to be compulsory in schools are gathering momentum, and are equally being resisted by certain quarters in our society.

What makes this issue all the more contentious is the fact that this country, compared to most, is remarkably mono-lingual. It is the norm in most countries around the world for two, three or even more languages to be spoken on an every day basis. My observation is that resistance to bilingualism is most fierce on the part of monolingual Kiwis who come from a colonial background, who make up a very large proportion of our society and who believe that English somehow has legitimacy in replacing te reo Maori as the most important language in our country.  This is also reflected in the political views of certain parties and politicians. I've been reading comments in the social media such as "Maori is a dead language," "Learning Maori is a waste of time as it's only spoken in New Zealand," "Non-Maori should be forced to learn Maori."

The reality is otherwise. Te Reo Maori is an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand and has the rights and status to be spoken everywhere, and as such, should be learned by all Kiwis. Te Reo Maori is what distinguishes this country from Australia and other English speaking countries. It is the language of the tangata whenua of our country and should have pride of place as a unique taonga or treasure, to be nurtured and fostered by all. As a Pakeha school principal, it is my special responsibility to ensure that I do everything I can to ensure my school community is committed to this.

In our school context, we will be promoting the learning of te reo Maori in a range of different ways over the next year. We have started to introduce a new culture into the life of our school which incorporates Maori terminology at every level. We have liaised with our local iwi Ngati Tamaoho, who have very kindly provided us with names of great cultural significance to Tainui, for our three whanau.  Our Board of Trustees will be embarked on a language revitalisation programme as well. As the majority of the students in our school are of Maori descent, it is appropriate that their cultural identity is affirmed and enhanced by the school.

Our school marae is a place where te reo Maori is respected, and where powhiri occur, which are conducted entirely in this language, which reflects its importance and and status. We are very fortunate as a school to have this sacred and culturally significant place as the heart of our school.

Te Wiki o te Reo Maori is not just another week in the calendar. It provides a wake up call for our society that it is time that all members of our society acknowledge and embrace this treasure.

No reira, he mihi ano ki tenei taonga tuku iho.

Detail from Te Kahurangi, the wharenui o Papakura High School.


  1. Many Maori families want their children to be global citizens and want to be seen as not just cultural contributors restricting their value as NZ and Global citizens!.

  2. Tena koe John, as Kaiako in our school we are able to support, guide and encourage our students and colleagues to speak te reo not only during te wiki o te reo but everyday. This is such an important role of ours as we prepare our learners for their futures. Te reo is not just a language to be acknowledged and spoken but it is part of a culture that must be accepted and embraced by people of every ethnicity. I am constantly reminded each day how dedicated our staff at PHS are in regards to their acceptance and determination of improving the way we do things here for not only our Maori learners but all our learners. Nga mihi nui.

  3. Kia ora John, Thanks for sharing your thoughts re te reo learning and speaking. Ann Milne had some interesting things to say about cultural identity at ULearn17.
    Ngā mihi,

    1. Kia ora Maria. Yes she does. I have heard her speak a number of times and am very impressed by her uncompromising view about cultural identity in the education space.

  4. Tena koe John, Iearning a language opens a window to that culture. When language disappears, culture will soon follow. Totally agree that all NZers need to have a 'learner' orientation as speakers of second, third, fourth and fifth languages.......