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Even Kia Ora makes a difference

Looking to the future

Māori, and increasing numbers of non-Māori, hold strong and positive views about te reo Māori, the Māori language. Since the 1970s there has been a groundswell of support for the revival and protection of te reo Māori. This has been the result of collaborative efforts by Te Reo Māori Society and Ngā Kaiwhakapümau i te reo Māori, and political pressure from many individuals and groups such as Ngā Tamatoa and the New Zealand Māori Council.

In the 1986 Te Reo Māori Report the Waitangi Tribunal determined that the Māori language was a taonga and therefore had protection under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi. This, in turn, led in August 1987 to the passing of the Māori Language Act which declared Māori an official language of New Zealand. The same Act established the Māori Language Commission (Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori). Faced with a diminishing pool of native speakers, the Commission was charged with “promoting Māori language as a living language and as an ordinary means of communication”.

The Māori Language Act has been a symbolic recognition of the Crown’s commitment to revitalising the Māori language. The Act recognises te reo Māori in law and allows it to be used in the Courts.

The declaration of its official status made te reo Māori a treasure for all New Zealanders. Since 1987, the advocacy work carried out by the Commission has resulted in government agencies, local bodies and private sector organisations starting to adopt policies for bilingualism. This is evident in the proliferation of Māori names for public service agencies, and high-profile media campaigns using Māori language and icons.

In delivering services to communities it is good business to establish a communications strategy that engages the audience in their own language. It is important now more than ever with the more than136,000 speakers of Māori that the public sector look at effective and appropriate ways to serve their clients.

There is a burgeoning business in Māori language, particularly in the film and television industry. The Kia Tupato campaign promoted by the Accident Compensation Corporation is an excellent example of the use of bilingualism in an organisation’s communication and strategic plan. It reinforces ACC’s commitment to injury prevention for Māori and Pacific peoples.

Te Reo encourages both the public sector and local authorities to commit to a policy of bilingualism to meet the needs of the Māori speaking community. This community is expanding rapidly and there is a greater acceptance overall by New Zealanders generally of te reo Māori and its place as an official language of New Zealand.

Te Taura Whiri is also working with the New Zealand State Services Commission to encourage bilingual organisations in the public service.
Te Taura Whiri works with the public and private sectors to provide quality assured language services. The Commission certificates translators and interpreters and has in place an examination system for assessing Māori language proficiency. They provide quality assurance checking of completed translations and, in conjunction with other organisations, are developing language tools such as spellcheckers, macronisers and an online dictionary.

Looking to the future

The ongoing challenge for the successful regeneration of te reo Māori is to increase its usage as an ordinary everyday language by creating opportunities to use te reo and increasing the number of domains where it is used. Much can be achieved through promotion and goodwill. New Zealanders can grow together nurtured by the indigenous language and culture of this country.

 

  

 

Photo shows people in a lecture room.

Public sector employees at a language planning seminar.