INSIDER'S GUIDE TO ...
TE RAU AROHA MUSEUM, WAITANGI
Bayley Moor, sales and marketing co-ordinator at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, talks to Te Rau Aroha's curator ahead of Anzac Day.
There is no better time than now for people to learn about the impacts of war, says Te Rau Aroha Museum curator, Chanel Clarke. The museum, on the Upper Grounds of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds next to Te Whare Rūnanga and the Treaty House, shares the stories of war and the ramifications for generations of Māori, which continue to be felt.
The museum's permanent exhibition is titled: The Price of Citizenship, Te Utu o Te Kiriraraunga, after the famous speech by Sir Apirana Ngata on the ātea of Te Whare Rūnanga at the Treaty Ground, where the 28 (Māori) Battalion gathered before departing for World War II.
While the museum focuses on the Māori Battalion with a special interest in the men of A Company from Te Tai Tokerau, the first gallery also includes exhibitions on the New Zealand Wars and other conflicts before turning to reflect on the Māori sacrifice during the World Wars.
Te Rau Aroha is named for a mobile canteen of the same name which delivered hot meals to soldiers of the battalion during World War II. The canteen was paid for with funds raised by Māori schoolchildren as a Token of Love (Te Rau Aroha).
The museum was opened in 2020, and one of the men who cut the ribbon was Sir Robert (Bom) Gillies, the last surviving member of the 28 (Māori) Battalion. An incredibly moving interview with Bom is played inside, and for many, this is the first time they have heard a former soldier speak so candidly.
Bom's interview is played just before visitors move into He Whare Maumarahatanga, a memorial to Māori service personnel from both World Wars. Seeing 730 frames on the wall representing men from A Company, plus thousands of names of Pioneer Battalion and 28 (Māori) Battalion soldiers is an eye-opening representation of the Māori sacrifice to war.
"We have this visceral interview with Bom; out of all those wars and names on the wall, he is the last man standing," Clarke said. "It's important for all of us to know the story. It shouldn't be on one man's shoulders. To me, that is the purpose of the place [Te Rau Aroha]. The gravity of the story is something we should all carry and find ways to reflect on and remember, and you would hope not to repeat it. As citizens of the world, we should remember."
As visitors leave Te Rau Aroha under the carved pou (carvings) which frame the flagstaff, they are again encouraged to reflect on war and peace and what it means today.
569 memorial crosses with the names of Māori service personnel killed in action and buried overseas will be placed on the upper Treaty Grounds as a Field of Remembrance in the week leading up to Anzac Day and will remain in place for a couple of weeks after. Visitors are welcome to pay their respects.
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