Betty Hauraki wins lifetime achievement award

By Rukuwai Tipene-Allen

Long-serving public servant Betty Hauraki of Rongowhakaata a and affectionately known as Whaea Betty, has been acknowledged for embodying the spirit of public service.

Whaea Betty has won a spirit of service award for her work in Māori language revitalisation. She has worked in the Māori Language Commission for the past two decades and has been a public servant for 50 years. She was nominated for the award by Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo.

In the acknowledgements, she has been recognised for her "passion, drive and ability to weave people together, (which) has helped turn a small community event into one of New Zealand’s biggest nationwide celebrations."

The girl from Manutuke grew up in the era when the language was banned in schools.

She and her team,  working fulltime during level four lockdown, helped to create a virtual Māori Language Week this year that resulted in more than one million people celebrate te reo at the same time, a first for Māori Language week. 

She is being acknowledged for her contribution to the growth and development of te reo Māori.

The long road

"By bringing people together, Betty has helped transform Māori Language Week into one of New Zealand’s biggest events and helped strengthen te reo Māori," the citation said.

Whaea Betty  said: "Kei te wiriwiri ngā pona, kei te pekepeke te manawa. But the show must go on. My knees are shaking, my heart pounding but the show must go on."

She acknowledged the signers, saying, "There are two official languages in this country other than English, sign language and re reo Māori."

She recognised the long road to today for te Reo. "The revitalisation of te Reo didn't just start with us today ... we've come a long way."

She acknowledged the late Huirangi Waikerepuru. She thanked Timoti Karetu and Pou Temara who continue the work of language revitalisation. Whaea Betty said the small community of Manutuke and her elders had raised her to be who she is today.