A Rotorua mother and daughter, both students of te reo teacher Billy Macfarlane, are voicing their support of his work after reading criticisms from the Department of Corrections.

Last week the Rotorua Daily Post revealed that despite widespread community encouragement, and endorsements from Te Arawa, Rotorua police and judges, Corrections had repeatedly opposed Macfarlane's Pūwhakamua course for offenders wanting to change their ways.

The tikanga course is in its second year and focuses on helping offenders understand their cultural identity, and practise those values, to be crime-free.

Trish Stephens then contacted the Rotorua Daily Post saying it was a privilege to be a part of Macfarlane's te reo classes, which are sometimes attended by Pūwhakamua course members.

Trish Stephens said Billy Macfarlane had her
Trish Stephens said Billy Macfarlane had her "total respect, admiration, and support". Photo / Ben Fraser

"Wiremu has my total respect, admiration, and support for him as a person and for the programme."

The 66-year-old Pākehā woman believes all New Zealanders should be bilingual.

She is the oldest student in Macfarlane's class and has been "delighted and amazed" by her progress since joining a year ago.

"I have been blown away. I have learned more than I have in 30 years going to different courses. Lots of people in the class say the same thing. My friend had spent a year at a wānanga and learned more with Wiremu in two weeks.

"He just brings it to life with a focus on kōrero and then we just practise, practise, practise."

She said Macfarlane could not change his past, but worked hard to change the future for himself and others.

"He is a role model for those inmates who do not wish to become recidivists."

Stephens' daughter Kimberly, who has been going to Macfarlane's classes for two years said she had never had any problems with him bringing Pūwhakamua course members to join the classes.


"They are ready. Otherwise, they wouldn't be there.

"One of his passions is trying to help. He has turned his life around and wants others to do the same."

They said Macfarlane's work demonstrated why we shouldn't judge others on their background.

"He very welcoming, very well spoken, and up front, and we have lots of laughs," Trish said.