Viral speech calls for Māori to be compulsory in NZ primary schools

By Kimiora Kaire-Melbourne

A YouTube clip posted by a non-Māori student at Kāpiti College has had over 40,000 views since going up at 10pm on Monday.  It features Finnian Galbraith delivering a speech he wrote, emphasising to New Zealand the importance of correctly pronouncing Māori words. 

One of the opening lines in his speech highlights an issue that he thinks needs to be addressed.

“On TV, on the radio, things that people see and hear every day.  So many of us are pronouncing Māori names and words completely wrong, too many of us.”

Although Finnian Galbraith is non-Māori, he says that no matter what your ethnicity is, it is important for all New Zealanders to learn how to pronouce Māori words correctly.

In the video he says, “Now I’m no expert in this and I don’t claim to be and I know I don’t always get it right.  But I give it a go and I’m willing to learn and that is what counts.”

Many may be wondering why a young Pākehā boy from Kāpiti College would decide to speak on this issue.

He says, “I chose the topic because, after being taught the Māori language once a week at primary school, people at college pronouncing the words wrong annoyed me and made me feel like we weren't respecting our culture. So I decided to take action!  I see it as a big issue and something really important for our country's culture because the Māori language is a huge part of our heritage.”

In his speech, he goes on to say that the solution to this problem would be to teach te reo in primary schools.

He says that people who do not learn any Māori from a young age have limited knowledge of the Māori language and, as a result can not pronouce Māori words correctly and struggle to see the importance of te reo.

“So I propose this, it is compulsory for kids to have at least an hour of learning te reo Māori per week, and all teachers have a basic knowledge of the language as well.  To be honest this isn’t much, but it could just give people enough knowledge of the language to help preserve it.”

Although people from around the country are seeing his speech for the first time this week, Finnian Galbraith has presented the same speech many times before, not only for his school speech competition, but also at the Wellington Regional Race Relations speech competition.

Galbraith says that since uploading the video, the feedback he has had has largely been positive.

He says, “The feedback has mainly been positive, as you can see on the YouTube video.  There have been some negative comments, although they haven't been nasty.  They have just disagreed with me and given reasons why they think that way, which I think is actually a good thing because friendly debate is fun and can be constructive.”