Once Malachi Ropata becomes a qualified doctor he wants to be able to do consultations in te reo Maori.

Ropata is a fifth-year University of Auckland medicine student with a passion for Māori health and has been on placement at Whakatane and Tauranga Hospitals.

He is taking next year off from his medicine degree to study full immersion te reo Māori at Te Wānanga Takiura o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa, in Auckland.

Ropata grew up in Wellington with "reasonable exposure" to te reo Maori but felt he missed out on gaining a full understanding of the language throughout his time at Wellington College.


Taking a year off to study te reo Māori is important to Ropata as he sees it as personal development.

"Studying medicine takes up a lot of your time, it becomes your whole life, so I'm taking a step back and focusing on what's really important to me," he said.

Ropata hasn't decided what his focus will be once he graduates but knows he wants to work in an environment where there is a high percentage of Māori patients.

Eight of Ropata's fellow medical students have been taking free Māori lessons provided by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa to help enrich their experiences with future patients.

Lauren Mackenzie is also a fifth-year medicine student, who has been on placement at Whakatane and Tauranga Hospitals and said the classes have made her realise how important the language is.

Mackenzie is taking te reo Māori classes as she wants to be able to engage with all of her future patients, including Māori speakers.

"If you can pronounce someone's name properly or say simple phrases to make someone feel comfortable then they will respect you a lot more," she said.

All of the students are taking evening lessons in their own time, and Mackenzie said it's a "fun and comfortable learning environment".

Noki Martin, Kaiwhakahaere Ako - manager of educational delivery at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, said he is pleased to see such a wide range of people enjoying his organisation's free lessons.

"We've got scientists, doctors, mums and dads getting involved; we're a community in ourselves," he said.

Martin said the number of people wanting to get involved in te reo Māori lessons had increased this year which could be because of a growing awareness of the language.

Simple Māori Health words
Health - Hauora
Doctor - Tākuta
Nurse - Nēhi
Hospital - Hōhipera
Mental Health - Hauora hinengaro
Counsellor - Kaiārahi