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August 16, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Te reo Struggles in Australia

Many Maori living in Australia are struggling to maintain te reo Maori there, recent Victoria University research shows.

According to the research compiled by senior associate of Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies Paul Hamer, one in six Maori now live in Australia but struggle to maintain the language there.

“Six per cent of Maori in Australia speak te reo in the home, but Maori don’t all tend to live in the same neighbourhoods there—one of the factors that makes it difficult to maintain the language.

“Maori migrants who speak te reo are perhaps more in danger of losing their language than other immigrant groups because Maori fit so easily into Australian workplaces and communities, and they also have a high intermarriage rate,” Hamer said.

Melissa Thorne (Rangitane/Ngati Kahungunu) has been living in Perth for 15 years and says her knowledge of te reo Maori also deteriorated since she left New Zealand.

However, she does try to make her children aware of their culture and teaches them some basic phrases.

“Perth has yearly culture festivals that I love going to and really makes me feel at home. It’s just sad that because I live in Aussie my kids won’t get the same experiences I did with our culture,” Thorne says.

Hamer’s research found that many speakers of Maori, including some Maori language teachers, are leaving New Zealand, often in search of higher paid work.

Using Australian census data, he calculates more than 10,000 speakers of te reo moved to Australia between 1986 and 2006.


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  1. christine waitai-rapana says:

    Tena koutou! I am Morehu from Ratana. A small but renowned village situated 21km’s south of Whanganui. The closest place for work is Whanganui, and most of the village’s population either work at the local freezing works min wage $13 an hour and seasonal at that; others that have invested in education at UCOL or Massey are considered fortunate to work in the mental health sector; or in the teaching sector. Places like Affco Imlay or MARS petfoods, Tasman and other factory workplaces, (if, been working there for a number of years) can limit your vision of what you are capable of achieving, hence the reason why I believe so many of our Maori save up and make the move. A geographic move is an attainment in itself topped off with a job above min wage. Australia has been the place where the dreams of many Maori, no longer have to stay contained but are able to become a reality. Yet the tangible treasures of Australia will never be able to replace the priceless treasures that are here in Aotearoa, in our homes, in our back yards, in our schools and communities. It is the treasure expressed in Art (2) of Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840, our Reo Maori, a facet of our Maoritanga that gives us our Identity. Who are we without it?

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