Te reo Maori is the only language one Bay family speaks at home.

Graham Cameron, former chief executive of the Merivale Community Centre, said he made a decision before the birth of his first daughter that he would raise his children to speak te reo Maori at home.

With the commitment of his wife, Jo, the pair committed to immersion courses through Te Wananga o Raukawa, a tikanga Maori tertiary education provider based in Otaki, so by the time their first daughter arrived in 2002 they were fluent in the language.

Each of his four children were raised with te reo Maori as their first language and as a family they are able to communicate fluently.


"Fluent in a way too (that) we can spend every day of our lives talking about most subjects in te reo Maori."

Mr Cameron said his father was Maori but he grew up with the sense he was missing something.

"As a Maori person not having it and being aware of who I was, there actually was a sense of something missing, and people not really knowing who you are and having to explain it.

"We didn't want any of that for our kids, we wanted them to be part of their community, their marae community and have the opportunity for them to know their language, their genealogy, their whakapapa and culture."

Mr Cameron said although now he feels fulfilled learning his native language the process did not come without its drawbacks and negative attention.

It was a hard process learning the language as an adult and a second language, he said.

"A lot of people have asked why we are bothering saying the kids will never get anywhere with this language and then it's hard for our family members who can't speak Maori.

"In the first few years they couldn't speak to the kids, but as the kids get older they are able to speak both English and Maori," he said.


Mr Cameron said although his family was fluent there were still challenges.

"The challenge in learning and speaking te reo is having places to speak it, other than home, that is why we are involved with our marae, that's why we have our kids in kura (immersion schools) those are places they can speak it when it is real and living and important."

Mr Cameron also said his wife, who is Pakeha, teaches at Te Wharekura o Mauao, a Maori immersion school in Bethlehem.

Mr Cameron said he sees a unique sense of pride in his children growing up with the language he never knew as a child. "It's amazing to see the strong sense of who they are, of them being special and knowing who they are and knowing where they belong."