In my first two LawTalk articles, I explored different ways to incorporate te reo Māori within our profession and the importance of getting te reo right. This helps us as lawyers to maintain our professional integrity and standards. Every time I hear and see my colleagues using te reo in their mahi (work) I am genuinely moved by the time and effort we have put in as an industry and it makes me excited to see how far we can take it.
Recently, while I watched the tense debate between former New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd and Dr Don Brash concerning the merits of Māori wards, I was reminded that there is a faction of our wider community who may not be quite be on board yet with why it’s important te reo is incorporated within our day-to-day business. So, if you aren’t sold yet, this article is for you.
Anei te patai (here’s the question) – he aha ai? Why should te reo Māori feature across all aspects of our profession and why should we use it in our everyday life?
On one hand it seems like a valid question. Most people speak English so as a means of communication, it’s pretty effective. So why would we need to use te reo Māori as well?
This is the part in the article where I could spend some time talking about our obligations as a nation to protect te reo Māori under the terms of Te Tiriti, or how our reo is not only a beautiful language, but a vehicle for the intergenerational transfer of stories and whakapapa (genealogy) … but you would have heard this argument already; at the very least I’m pretty sure we all learnt about it at law school.
What te reo Māori can do for you
Instead, this is the part where I tell you what te reo Māori can do for you. Our team is working alongside Te Arawa leadership to design and implement the Rotorua Reorua (Bi-lingual Rotorua) workplan and through this mahi we have stumbled upon some golden examples of how te reo can have some amazing positive effects on communities.
To start, did you know that te reo Māori can be good for business? Gaillimh le Gaeilge was established with the aim of promoting the Irish language, particularly as an economic resource, in Galway in the Republic of Ireland. A 2009 study commissioned by Gaillimh le Gaeilge (Bane Mullarkey Ltd, in partnership with Jerome Casey & Co Ltd, The economic benefits associated with the Irish language which accrue to Galway City and the Galway Taeltacht) showed the phenomenal economic contribution of the Gaeltach (Irish) language to the city of Galway had increased from $13 million in 1987 to $187 million in 2016.
While a large part of this was attributed to tourism we also know that te reo speakers/iwi want to work with businesses and firms who can converse in te reo. It adds authenticity to our practice. Often, I will go out of my way across town to a hardware store simply because their staff use every te reo Māori word they know when they engage with my whānau and I.
In addition to kia ora and tēnā koutou – greetings I covered in my ‘greetings guidelines’ in the last issue of LawTalk (June 2018, page 32) – simple sayings can really make our day, like ‘Kia pai to rā!’ (‘have a good day’) and ‘Mā te wā’ (‘see you later!’). Within the formality of a court setting these terms are too informal, however they absolutely fit within the less formal environ of your tari (office). A good one to try out when hanging up the phone after speaking with a colleague or client is ‘Hei konā!’ (‘Goodbye!’).
But it’s not all about chasing the money, te reo Māori being good for business isn’t the only reason you should want to embrace te reo. We also know there is some inextricable links between cultural identity and positive social outcomes.
A study undertaken by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in 2013 (Value and culture – an economic framework) tells us that, among other things, increased cultural identity can lead to reduced crime and increased societal harmony.
We are in a unique position within our profession where we are working with people from all walks of life. As lawyers we have an opportunity to help normalise te reo across Aotearoa – from those battling with their own cultural identities as tāngata whenua, as well as those who are yet to open their minds to the unique cultural identity our Tiriti partnership provides for.
Now the bit you have all been waiting for, homework.
There is no doubt in my mind that after reading the above rationale, you will be chomping at the bit to look at how you can use te reo in your every day! Why not start with whipping out your post-it pads and labelling a few bits and bobs around your tari with their ingoa Māori (Māori names) so you are reminded of the kupu every day. Your rorohiko pōnaho (laptop) and your waea pūkoro (cellphone) are a good place to start. A comprehensive list of useful/common phrases used around the office can be found on Te Taurawhiri o te reo Māori’s website.
Lastly, I would like to leave you all with the words of Te Manahau Morrison: ‘Turou Hawaiki’.
While this can be loosely translated to ‘Let the ancient homeland of Hawaiki glisten on in your minds for eternity’ my personal favourite explanation for this saying is ‘May the force be with you.’ So, until next time…
Alana Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org is a director of Kaupare Consultancy. Before practising law she worked as a Deputy Registrar at the Māori Land Court in Whangarei.