Ngā Kākā Kura O Te Reo Māori, the latest Māori Language Awards hosted by the Māori Language Commission and Te Mātāwai, have acknowledged outstanding pioneers' contributions to revive and revitalise the Māori language.
Te Taura Whiri I Te Reo Māori chief executive Ngāhiwi Apanui said that they want to celebrate 50 years of bringing the language back, especially with all the important people that made it happen.
'A privilege to celebrate'
“Fifty years had to be celebrated. It became very clear at the petition event at Parliament that some of these people weren’t going to be around, so we got this wonderful group of people together.”
“We will probably never have the same group of people in the same room again and we celebrated them, from the people who took the petition to Parliament on September 14, 1972.”
“They got a standing ovation as they should have through to Te Matatini, which was the starting of the Polynesian Festival in the 1970s to the kōhanga reo movement with the first kōhanga to kura kaupapa, Māori broadcasting, Māori TV, Māori radio; through to today.”
Apanui said that sharing the same space as those people was such a privilege and to celebrate such an important kaupapa.
Apanui said Hone Harawera made a valid point in his speech proclaiming that until Māori at the poorest end of society could speak Māori then the battle for te reo wouldn't be done and that was the challenge for Te Mātāwai.
'A big job to overturn'
Apanui said Māori needed to be careful not to continue the cycle that promoted te reo Māori just for the middle class when it was the language of all Māori and New Zealanders.
“Despite the fact that you have an increasing number coming from kura kaupapa and whare kura, they are the children of the people that I went to university with."
Apanui said that for the past 180 years it has been drummed into Māori that te reo was not worth as much as the English language
“It’s a big job to overturn that but it’s also a responsibility on the part of the government to ensure that the resource is there to do well.”