New Zealand Law Society - E ako ki te ora, e ora ki te ako. Learn to live, live to learn

E ako ki te ora, e ora ki te ako. Learn to live, live to learn

Six inspiring wāhine lawyers discuss their reasons for taking a year out of their careers to study te reo Māori, their aspirations for themselves and the legal profession and some useful phrases we can all start using in the office.

Nā Bernadette Roka Arapere

“E ako ki te ora, e ora ki te ako” were the words of the late Papa Sean Ogden when he spoke of his love for te reo Māori and why his learning journey was never-ending. He uri o Ngāti Tukorehe, Papa Sean was one of the pūkenga of the tohu, Heke Poutuarongo Reo Māori, at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki.

Te Wānanga o Raukawa is a tikanga Māori tertiary education provider. It was established in 1981 under the iwi development strategy, Whakatupuranga Rua Mano: Generation 2000. The strategy captured the aspirations of the iwi, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai and Ngāti Raukawa ki te tonga at a time when there were almost no speakers of te reo Māori under the age of 30 within the confederation.

Ko Bernadette Roka Arapere rātou, ko Julia Whaipooti, ko Cara Takitimu, ko Toni Love, ā, ko Franky Maslin.
Nā te taha maui (from left): Ko Bernadette Roka Arapere rātou, ko Julia Whaipooti, ko Cara Takitimu, ko Toni Love, ā, ko Franky Maslin.

Te Wānanga o Raukawa has been a crucial element in the revitalisation of te reo Māori within the confederation and now attracts students from many other iwi as well as Pākehā learners.

Heke Poutuarongo Reo Māori is a full-time total immersion te reo Māori qualification. This year there are six lawyers, all wāhine, taking time out of their careers to undertake this tohu. Ānei ngā tauira wāhine.

Here is a snapshot of our reasons for undertaking this tohu, our aspirations and perspectives on the importance of te reo Māori for all lawyers.

Why are we taking time out from our careers to learn te reo Māori?

Many Māori know the intergenerational trauma of seeking to reclaim the language of our tūpuna. Māori language advocate Stacey Morrison talks about putting yourself in the vulnerable state required for learning and trying to acquire the language that is part of you, but that you cannot articulate. It’s a hard feeling, and getting past it requires you to embrace your vulnerability. We have put ourselves in a vulnerable state as adult learners to acquire our reo rangatira, our chiefly language. For lawyers it is almost anathema to be vulnerable or at least admit to any vulnerability.

By contrast the learning environment at the Wānanga is safe, supportive and affirming. Nau mai te hapa. Nā te hapa, ka ako.

Cara Takitimu, nō Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Ngāti Porou me Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, is the national manager of the Employment Mediation Service at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

For Cara, te teo Māori has always been part of her life, however, not as a first language.

“My koro was cruelly and regularly beaten at school for speaking Māori (the only language he knew) and was adamant that his 11 children would not suffer in the way he did. The impact of that is multi-generational, with most people now in my large whānau only able to speak English. Language is the gateway to culture, to a different world view, so language loss and gain is far more than just a language. Ko tōku reo, tōku ohooho. Ko tōku reo, tōku māpihi maurea.”

Julia Whaipooti, he uri nō Ngāti Porou and an adviser in the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, says that “without my reo it feels as if my tongue is missing from my mouth. I have the strongest responsiblity and desire to ensure that my children and our mokopuna can have what is our right as Māori, and that is the knowledge and ability to speak our language.”

“Can you imagine taking a year off work and a year’s income and ‘professional’ growth so you can learn your own language on the land of which you descend from? It is sad that we have to find a place that nurtures the growth of te reo Māori in Aotearoa because it’s not in our daily lives, workplaces and general public.”

Julia and her wife, Emma Whiley, made the decision to commit to a year of full immersion learning for their children to come. Emma is a Pākehā lawyer at Bennion Law who works primarily in Māori legal matters. “Our journey with te reo does not end in a year, it is a lifetime and intergenerational commitment.”

Toni Love, nō Te Ātiawa, is a solicitor at Chapman Tripp in the property and construction team.

“I decided to do this course a long time ago for personal reasons rather than professional. Some considered taking a year out so early in my practice wasn’t a good idea but the need to connect with my taha Māori further, learn more about my whakapapa, and to create an environment where my children can and will speak Māori, outweighed anything else. I don’t consider there could be any negatives from this. This journey is about my identity and identity frames everything you do and so although this wasn’t about professional aspirations, I can only see it benefiting my practice.”

Like Toni, I (Bernadette) made the decision to do this tohu a long time ago. There are many reasons why. My Dad who is aged in his 70s talks of his parents’ generation speaking Māori to each other but not to their children because of their experiences of abuse in the Pākehā school system for speaking te reo.

After having studied reo intermittently in my life and being stuck at the same level of fluency for many years, I decided I was ready to embrace the hapa and the vulnerability of learning reo as an adult learner. What I wasn’t expecting was the depth of emotion and feeling of relief at being in a safe Māori space of learning, alongside my whanaunga and within the embrace of my tūpuna represented in the carvings of the whare, Te Ara a Tāwhaki. Legal practice can be hard, lonely and bereft of manaakitanga. These experiences can be especially common for Māori lawyers because there are still so few of us in the profession. Taking this time to boost my reo and tikanga has been uplifting in so many more ways than just improving my language. Ka piki tōku wairua hoki.

Why this tohu?

We all chose Heke Poutuarongo Reo because the kaupapa is to learn in a total immersion te reo Māori environment. The course is full-time, Monday to Thursday, and we do not speak any English on campus. There is also an equal focus on te reo Māori and tikanga Māori – the philosophy being that without both of these pou a person is off balance. We live and breathe te reo me ona tikanga in our studies.

Franky Maslin, he uri o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, o Ngāti Awa hoki, has recently completed her time as a Judges’ Clerk at Te Kōti-ā-Rohe kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

For her whānau, Franky explains, “there was no reo spoken in my mother’s generation and in mine while growing up. As for my current hāpori, reo is rich in Ōtaki. I hear it spoken daily and it is a beautiful experience.” In Ōtaki you can stay in a te reo Māori environment – you can order coffee, go to the gym and kōrero to your barber all in te reo Māori. It is awesome to be in a town where speaking Māori is normal and accepted, heard on the streets and in the shops.

Is support from our workplaces important?

Cara: “I’m thankful for the support MBIE has provided me to study te reo Māori. It’s a tangible example of the public sector committing to improved capability in this area. While studying this year I’m also working with a colleague to develop a Rautaki Reo that will support the increased use of te reo Māori at MBIE. On my return to work it will be implemented alongside mediation services in te reo Māori”.

Toni: “Work has been incredibly supportive of this decision allowing me to take a year off work while still being in my junior practice years. It’s clear that they see this as valuable and this is shown not only through their support but their ongoing encouragement of this journey. I feel grateful to be part of a firm (and a team) that recognises the value of this decision.”

For me (Bernadette), being in a position to take time out from working has been several years in the making. I was a single parent, working full-time with a mortgage and so for many years I was not in a position to give this gift to myself. Now, my daughter Millie is older and I have an awesome partner, Simon, and together we’ve been able to make my long-held aspiration a reality. I am also fortunate to have the support of Crown Law to undertake this tohu. When I talked with my boss, Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC, about my dream to do this course her reply was: “It’s professional development. Let’s make it happen.”

What are our aspirations in studying te reo Māori me ona tikanga?

Franky: “Personally, the absolute goal would be to live and breathe te reo Māori me ona tikanga on a daily basis. Professionally, the aspiration is to increase the use and awareness of reo in our justice system at all levels – amongst colleagues, with clients, with court staff and with the judiciary”.

Toni: “Toi tū te kupu, toi tū te mana, toi tū te reo Māori. I want an Aotearoa where no one has to take a year off work to learn their language, an Aotearoa where we learn from our parents and so I am going to do everything I can to ensure that for my tamariki and mokopuna”.

Cara: “I have been in public sector leadership roles for 15+ years and I see there is huge potential for the public service to contribute to the revitalisation and renormalisation of te reo Māori in Aotearoa. I want to be able to lead the delivery of public services in te reo Māori from a place of competency and to be able to support the increased te reo capability in my teams. On a personal level, its about sharing te reo with my tamariki and whānau”.

Bernadette: “My main aspiration is to be able to contribute to the revitalisation of te reo in my whānau, hapū and iwi. I also want to be able use te reo more in my mahi. The courts are increasingly engaging with tikanga. I worked on the tikanga aspects of the Peter Ellis appeal in the Supreme Court. In the wānanga of tohunga experts for that case, it was inspiring to observe the tohunga move effortlessly between te reo Māori and English, common law concepts and tikanga. I look forward to the day when more lawyers and judges are also able to engage with te reo and English, the common law and tikanga.”

Is knowledge of te reo me ona tikanga important for lawyers? Why?

Emma: “There are two laws that lie in this land, one is the legislative/common law imported here and the tikanga and kawa of this whenua that still runs. The two dimensions of law are coming together in different legal ways, therefore it’s important for any practising lawyer to know and understand te reo me ona tikanga.”

Julia: “If you are not Māori your relationship to this land is via Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Therefore you have an obligation to understand our history, language and tikanga. I believe lawyers have an absolute obligation to grow learning of not just the reo, but knowledge of our history as a country and understand the role the law has played as a colonial tool. This is to inform how it can be a tool that truly is used in a way that actually honours the aspirations of our tīpuna (both Māori and Pākēha) who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

Toni: “While I see positives in the courts and law generally regarding te reo me ona tikanga, we still have a long way to go. I think if our constitutional arrangements were anchored in Te Tiriti we wouldn’t even be asking the question of whether knowledge of te reo me ona tikanga is important for lawyers because it would be a pre-requisite. I watched the submissions on the post enactment inquiry into the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act and one of the committee members asked what difference a Te Tiriti provision would make. If an MP has to ask that question in 2020 that is a problem. If that MP thinks it is a good question because it shows they are engaging with Te Tiriti, that is also a problem. All that question says to me is we have people in Parliament that need to do their homework”.

Bernadette: “Āna! You cannot fully understand and engage with tikanga Māori without te reo Māori and vice versa so it is important for lawyers to upskill in both especially as the law develops and ‘Lex Aotearoa’ becomes a reality. There is also much in te reo me ona tikanga that could assist the profession. Tikanga such as manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and mana could all have a stronger role in shaping the law and guiding lawyers and judges in their work.”

Franky: “Engari tonu! I am specifically interested in becoming a criminal defence lawyer and, as we know, Māori are over-represented in the legal system. Therefore, in my opinion, a basic (if not competent) understanding of te reo me ona tikanga should be a bare minimum for lawyers in order to successfully undertake their legal obligations in relation to tāngata Māori.”

“From my experience as a Judges’ Clerk at the District Court, I felt an ever growing willingness and support amongst the judiciary to learn to kōrero Māori in the courts, and in judgments, and to also engage in a tikanga responsive and tikanga appropriate manner which is a positive sign.”

“We still have much more to do in Aotearoa to ensure this taonga is not lost. To ensure the survival of reo, I think the responsibility not only lies with Māori but also tauiwi.”

Cara: “Te reo Māori is the language of this land and I observed while living overseas its connection back to home for all New Zealanders. This is why we all have a responsibility for the normalisation of te reo Māori in Aotearoa and to ensure that te reo Māori thrives – kia māhorahora te reo – everywhere, every way, for everyone, every day. The legal community can make a really important contribution here, by ensuring that there are expectations of te reo Māori me ona tikanga competency at an individual and firm/workplace level and by supporting professional development in this area.”

What are some good kīwaha for the office?

Cara: “Tūwhitia te hopo, mairangatia te angitū!” This means “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” A good one for learning te reo Māori!

Franky: “Kua taka te kapa!” This means “The penny has dropped!” Another handy phrase for language learners.

Toni: “I don’t know if I have a favourite kīwaha for the office but my new fave is “tō kai, tō kai”. This phrase is a te reo version of “karma”.

Bernadette: “Kia manawa tītī!” This means “keep going and don’t give up!” Another good kīwaha is “He taringa kōhatu koe!” This means “You have stone ears!”. This one is for your favourite colleague who never listens.

Who are some of our te reo champions?

Cara: “Pania Papa. I was fortunate to have her as a kaiako at Waikato University however I wish I made more of that opportunity! He taonga te huritautia!!”

Franky: “Ko tāku tāne ko Deacon. He is also a second language learner like myself and inspires me to improve and keep learning as a result of his determination, passion and persistence.”

Bernadette: “I have two, Stacey Morrison and Te Moananui a Kiwa Goddard. Stacey is a second language adult learner. She is hūmarie, encouraging and along with husband Scotty, focused on making learning te reo accessible and fun. Te Kiwa is a pāpā, graduate of Te Panekiretanga, pukenga at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, eternal optimist and creative who uses music and creativity to teach.”

Kupu whakamutunga

Ka hoki au ki ngā kupu: “E ako ki te ora, e ora ki te ako”. For te reo Māori to live we need to commit to learning it and as Papa Sean observed, through learning, te reo Māori will also enrich our lives and the lives of our whānau, friends and hāpori. We encourage our friends in the law to get on board. Kua takoto te mānuka. Karawhiua!

Puna Kupu (Glossary of words)

Āna! Indeed!
Ā-tinana in person
Hapa mistake, error
Hāpori community
Huritautia to reflect upon, to consider
Hūmarie pleasant, gentle, peaceful
Iwi extended kinship group, tribe, nation
Kaupapa purpose, matter for discussion, topic
Kawa customs and protocol
Kaiako teacher
Kōrero speech, narrative, story, news, discussion, discourse, information
Koro grandfather, term of address for an older man
Mana prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status
Manaakitanga the process of showing respect, generosity and care for others
Mokopuna grandchild, descendant
of, belonging to, from
Pākēha English, European
Pou post, pillar
Pūkenga lecturer, expert
Rautaki strategy
Taha side
Taonga reasure, prized possession
Te Kōti-ā-Rohe kei
Te Whanganui-a-Tara
District Court, Wellington
Tauiwi non-Māori
Tikanga the customary system of law, values and practices
Tohu qualification
Tohunga chosen expert, skilled person, priest, healer
Tūpuna (tīpuna in Ngāti Porou dialect) ancestors
Uri offspring, descendant
Whakaaro thought, opinion, plan, understanding
Whakapapa genealogy, lineage
Whanaunga relative, kin, blood relation
Whanaungatanga relationship, kinship, sense of family connection

Puna Kīanga (Glossary of phrases)

Engari tonu! Of course! For sure!
Nau mai te hapa. Nā te hapa, ka ako Welcome the mistakes. From the mistakes comes learning.
Ko tōku reo, tōku ohooho. Ko tōku reo, tōku māpihi maurea My language is my awakening, my language is the window to my soul.
Ka piki tōku wairua hoki My spirit has been uplifted.
Kua takoto te mānuka. Karawhiua! The mānuka (challenge) has been laid down. Go for it!
Toi tū te kupu, toi tū te mana, toi tū te reo Māori Hold fast to our culture for without language, without mana and without land the essence of being Māori would no longer exist.

The kīwaha in the heading of this article is from Papa Sean Bennett-Ogden, Waka Huia, TVNZ, 29 o Poutū te Rangi 2020.

Bernadette Roka Arapere, Ngāti Raukawa ki te tonga, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto. Crown Counsel, Public Law, Crown Law Office, Wellington

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