Funding te reo sports events could be a game changer in normalising te reo Māori

By Aroha Mane

Puni Reo Poitarwhiti is Auckland’s first netball event where all taking part speak Māori.

It’s a new research project investigating the ripple effect the Māori language has on participants and communities. The projectis  funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and led by Professor Jenny Lee Morgan and Dr Jennifer Martin of Ngā Wai a Te Tūī, Māori and Indigenous Research Centre.

“Te Puni Reo aims to create an environment outside of strong reo areas. It's a place where te reo Māori can be heard and used by children on a daily basis and we’ve seen this through this project,” Martin says.

The idea for the project came from within their own community.

“When the idea was first presented to Puni Reo, the Lee-Morgan whānau played a lot of netball. Jenny and Eruera’s four children were playing netball and that was a great reason.”

The research identified the collective input of the community was integral to establishing and maintaining Puni Reo Poitarawhiti as no resource or funding was provided.

“This isn’t exclusive to players but also to include the umpires, organisers and staff. All the announcements are conducted in te reo Māori. This provides an atmosphere to normalise te reo Māori.”

This annual netball project is held in West Auckland at Te Pai Netball courts in Waitakere.

“For those familiar with this area, there are a lot of netball tournaments held there and even though there are a few Māori-speaking teams, English is the dominant language,” Martin says.

Driving te reo Māori through sports could be a game-changer when it comes to revitalising te reo Māori.

“We only have to look at the Pulse and rugby for examples. A number of famous athletes speak te reo Māori. The survival of the language doesn’t solely rely on sports but it can certainly be a vehicle.”

Researchers hope support and investment will expand beyond Māori communities which is key to maintaining the momentum of integral te reo initiatives like Puni Reo Poitarawhiti.

The full report can be located here Te Riponga: Puni Reo Poitarawhiti Report.