Turakina supporters want legislation for Māori boarding schools

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

Over 300 people marched to Parliament today to protest the possible closure of Turakina Māori Girls School.

It wasn't the most pleasant day but Turakina students past and present marched in the wind and rain in Wellington where Marama Fox Māori Party co-leader received them.

Hekia Parata Education Minister though was nowhere to be found, instead she had other matters to attend to.

It's their final attempt and plea to keep Turakina alive.

Hemaima Eichstaedt says, “We are requesting that the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction to legislation, which would protect Māori boarding schools.”

Turakina supporters presented a petition to parliament for the protection of Māori boarding schools under legislation.

Marama Fox says, “Even though it's raining, it's ugly, my heart is filled with love.  Look how many people there are today to watch and support these girls who are fighting to keep their school open.”

This protest follows after the Minister of Education Hekia Parata launched a consultation process to decide the future of the school.  Students and supporters fear the school could close by January next year.

Parata says, “I know this is a sad time for the students of Turakina, the old girls and myself.”

The school was established in 1905 and has educated Māori leaders like former MP Georgina Te Heuheu and Māori musician Toni Huata.

Turakina student, Lani Hirini says, “Our elderly are outside in the rain, where is the Māori spirit in that?”

Another Turakina student, Ella Lyon says, “The weather is not that great, but we are still here to support the kaupapa and that’s the main thing.”

90-year-old Meri Caton is the oldest surviving alumna who attended Turakina.  She also travelled to parliament to show her support.

Hemaima Eichstaedt says, “Rev Meri Caton is the oldest ex-Turakina student here today, she came along, she was gonna come along whether we, we couldn't really stop her.”

The consultation process to decide the future of the school ends tomorrow.  These supporters hope their petition will protect the future of Māori boarding schools.

Here is some extra online RAW footage of the performances today outside Parliament: