Plans for first Marae in Australia underway

By Talisa Kupenga

A group of Māori leaders from Australia are in NZ to further develop a strategy to build an urban marae in Melbourne, a first in Australia. They hope the marae, once built, will provide a hub for Māori living across the ditch to reconnect with their culture, address social issues and build a community for those away from home.

Māori leaders in Melbourne have a vision to build a marae.

“This is about bringing the local, indigenous and Māori communities together. That's what's important and why we want to build a marae,” says Matiu Taia from the Marae Melbourne group.

They met with Te Whānau o Waipareira Trust knowing that it had worked alongside urban marae Hoani Waititi.

Matiu says, “We've come to gain the information, knowledge and strategies from Te Whānau o Waipareira.”

The marae concept has been in the making for the past 30 years. A key driver of the initiative is to provide support to whānau in Melbourne and to address any social issues they may be experiencing.

Raina Smith the Marae Melbourne Group Ceo says, "So we have a high representation of Māori rangatahi in prisons, in juvenile justice centres we have an alarmingly frightening suicide rate within our community in Melbourne and domestic violence issues so many of the issues that are presenting here are also happening there as well.”

She says as well as being disconnected from their homeland and culture, whānau are also facing other challenges.

"The politics and the arena we work in is also challenging because we have issues around pathways towards accessing citizenship and therefore pathways to accessing services. Those challenges are starting to present in the community."

"We have both sides with the tangata whenua and we also have strong support from the state government."

It is not yet decided when or where the marae will be built. The group says at this point the main focus is making sure the strategy is strong to ensure the project's success.