Te Aranga Marae has had a stream of visitors. We powhiri our manuhiri (group of visitors) to Te Aranga, which was made all the more significant with participation from Kimi Ora Primary School.

Matt O'Dawd, since taking over as principal of Kimi Ora, assured us from the outset that Kimi Ora and Te Aranga would eventually become as one. "But you need to give me a year. Give me a year to sort the school out Ana Henare."

The students now have a breakfast and lunch at school. We were recently invited to attend a hangi lunch with Kimi Ora, where we learn from teachers that students are involved with setting up the lunches for the school.

So it was an auspicious occasion for us at Te Aranga to witness the children of Kimi Ora welcome all of Twyford Primary School. The headmaster of Twyford smiles and admits the powerful singing voices of Kimi Ora may have slightly intimidated his Twyford students with their waiata.


Pam and I glance at each other during the welcome to Twyford and we both find ourselves in tears. We are over the moon. True to Matt's word, soon after this event Kimi Ora are back again welcoming workforce development students at Te Aranga. Being connected to our marae is powerful.

This week we celebrate Maori Language Week led by the Maori Language Commission. The theme this year is akina te reo - behind you all the way, using te reo Maori to support people, to inspire.

More and more of us recognise the importance of learning te reo Maori. Personally, I wish I had learned it growing up. My grandfather Wirihana Apatu (arranged to be married to someone else) fell in love with my grandmother Mollie Evans. According to my mother, my grandfather chose not to speak Maori in the household out of respect to my grandmother. But on the marae my grandfather was fluent.

There are many like me who would love to speak fluently. I have had several attempts but I get to a certain point where it gets hard. Yes there was some Maori growing up, for example kapa haka at Pukehamoamoa Primary School. No, I can't remember any Maori being taught but my parents at that time felt education in mainstream was important.

I am very envious of those who are fluent. Locally we celebrate this Maori Language Week with Whangaihia Reo Kia Tipu Te Reo Summit, today and tomorrow..

This summit will showcase innovative and positively evaluated programmes such as Te Reo Tuatahi developed by Raewyn Harrison. Te Reo Tuatahi operates in more than 40 North Shore primary schools in Auckland, with more than 15,000 children learning our reo. As you might expect, the North Shore has very few Maori let alone kura, and the majority of children are Pakeha and new migrants.

Interestingly, 28 per cent of the children's teachers, and many of their parents and caregivers, enrolled in a te reo Maori course after the programme began in their schools.

I was interested to read that Andrew Judd, Mayor of New Plymouth, will be speaking. He has gained respect from people all around the country for his stance advocating for Maori wards with the New Plymouth District Council. I found his interview with John Campbell on National Radio compelling. I read his recent discovery and greater understanding of Maori history has made him realise the mindset of prejudices that exist.


Other presenters include Annette Sykes, who fresh out of law school wrote the bill that made te reo Maori an official language. The programme says there are 10 other thought-provoking, solution-orientated, innovative speakers including Ngati Kahungunu reo expert Lee Smith, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori principal Cordry Huata, broadcaster and Manukau Urban Maori Authority chief executive Willie Jackson, All Black great Andrew Mehrtens, Ngati Kahungunu academic Dr Joseph Te Rito, actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand and NZ Maori Council chairman Maanu Paul. A powerful lineup.

- Ana Apatu is CEO of the U-Turn Trust, based at Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere.