Courts adopt Maori language

By Sandra Conchie

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Tauranga court staff have been making in-court announcements in te reo Maori as well as English under an initiative aimed at recognising the status of the country's first language.

Since Monday, the first day of Maori Language Week, court registrars and attendants have opened, adjourned and closed court sittings at district, youth and family courts in both languages - firstly in te reo Maori followed by the English translation.

For instance, when court attendants ask those seated in the public gallery to stand, they say "Turitari Taki tu" which means: Silence, all stand.

One Tauranga court staff member, who did not wish to be named, told the Bay of Plenty Times that while she and her colleagues had been undergoing training, her main concern was being able to pronounce te reo correctly so she did not offend anyone.

Tauranga District Court manager Beth Bowden said staff at the courts had been practising hard.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue said the move is an historic change in the district court process.

"We wanted a practical way for District Courts to recognise te reo Maori as an official language of New Zealand."

There was already a significant amount of te reo Maori being used in everyday language in Government agencies and other courts including the Maori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal ad Rangitahi Youth Court and Matariki Court, she said.

"It would enhance proceedings and show appreciation for the cultural significance of the language in the court environment," Judge Doogue said.

The introduction of the initiative has been timed to coincide with Maori Language Week, which celebrates te reo Maori as a unique feature of the New Zealand identity and to encourage new ways of promoting the use of the language.

Ministry of Justice district courts manager Tony Fisher said a language training programme had been "a great opportunity for staff to connect with New Zealand's cultural heritage".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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