The Māori Language Commission has paid tribute to students from Te Wharekura o te Rito who formally complained after they were abused for performing at the local council recently.
“We’re sorry our tamariki had to go through this but we are grateful they called these adults out: our children are refusing to normalise racism,” said Ngahiwi Apanui, commission chief executive.
“Shame on those adults who no doubt will not have the same courage to face our tamariki. We will be heading up to Otaki to visit these students, to thank them and to talk about what happened.”
Mr Apanui noted that the news of the abuse became public only hours after the commission announced the dates for next year’s Māori Language Week.
A Colmar Brunton poll in late 2020 found that more than 8 in 10 Kiwis see te reo as a part of their identity as a New Zealander and something to be proud of.
“People who are bitterly opposed to te reo Māori are now part of a minority that is growing smaller by the day,” said Māori Language Commissioner, Professor Rawinia Higgins.
“What’s puzzling is their failure to recognise that te reo brings New Zealanders together in a peaceful way. While we are in no way perfect, when you compare us to other countries that struggle with race relations, we are doing better than we have in the past.”
The commission hosted a Māori language moment last year that saw more than 1 million people – a fifth of the population – stop what they were doing and celebrate te reo Māori.
“To those who continue to oppose te reo: Our language is not going away! It’s getting stronger every day and by the time today’s children are my age: it will be normal to hear, see and speak te reo. My hope is that future generations of New Zealanders will be multilingual not monolingual: why stop at one language when our children could one day speak several," said Professor Higgins.