Growing up Maori in NZ: My daily experience of racism at school, playing rugby, at University and at the shops, by an anonymous 18 year old young man


I was 9 and it was the middle of religious education at our state primary school when a lady told our class that God didn’t love the Tuhoe people because they were terrorists. I still remember that day because I wanted to cry I was so angry. I knew she was lying. So I walked out of her class and went to the office and told them I wasn’t going to go to religious education anymore. The teachers rang my mum and she came in and told them that neither me nor my brother were ever going back to religious education.

Sometimes kids would say racist things and I used to try to ignore them a lot. I played rugby for our town and there were some boys in my team who’d call us racist names. One day at training a boy called me a dumb N***** and I had enough and ran at him and punched him.

Well I got in huge trouble. The coach had heard it all but told me it was all my fault for reacting and I need to just ignore it, as usual he never told off the boys who said racist things. I walked off and was crying. My Dad came out onto the field and told off my coach. My coach kept trying to blame me but my Dad told him he was useless and shouldn’t let the other boys abuse us and then expect us to take it.

It was around this time me and my cousin used to be picked on by a group of boys at our school. They’d say racist things about us and we refused to take it, we fought back. Teachers didn’t really do much, we were told to ignore it but it’s hard to ignore someone giving you a hiding. At lunch they’d just chase us and fight us, sometimes 10 to 2 so it was never a fair fight.

One day my cousin left some 4 x 2s in the bushes. He never told me what he’d done but that day at lunch when they were all chasing us he shouted at me to follow him to the bushes. We ran out of the bushes with these pieces of wood and all the boys who’d been about to bash us started screaming and running away. They were very fast and we didn’t even hit any of them. We ended up in the principal’s office and we were the ones in big trouble not the boys who’d been bullying us for ages.

My Dad came in and he argued with the principal and told him that if the school couldn’t guarantee our safety then our family would send in people to the school to make sure we were safe. He meant it and so from then on the school made sure the bullying ended. I left soon after to go to another school anyway and I remember being terrified as I was going to a much bigger school and assumed the bullying was going to be way worse. But when I got there the culture of the school was great and there was no bullying like what we had gone through.

When I started college I didn’t know why but I kept getting put into woodwork and metalwork option courses that I’d never signed up for. I had won an academic scholarship in Year 9 and ended up getting excellence in NCEA 1, 2 and 3, but for a while someone there decided I needed to do a trade. There is nothing wrong with tradie work, I actually love it – that’s what I do during the holidays – but it’s unfair to look at me and decide: Oh yeah OK, that brown kid he can do woodwork even though he asked to do Financial Management.


After I got excellence in Year 11, me and a mate got an invite to start going to meetings for excellence students. Well we turned up and the lady asked us what we were doing there because this was a meeting for excellence students. A lot of the Pakeha kids who were there started giggling at us. I can’t remember what we said to her but she never really welcomed us into her meetings. I’ve got to admit we paid no attention in her meetings. A few more times when we’d turn up she’d look at us and ask if we were in the right place. She never remembered our names. We were the only Maori and Pasifika boys there.

Over the years I’d get used to having to defend everything Maori, during class discussions other kids would argue that the Treaty is racist or that Maori scholarships are racist.

Once I got up to say that my scholarship came from my tribe not from the Government and someone shouted out “Hone Harawira” from the back of the class. Being a Maori kid in a mostly Pakeha world, yeah. You’re often put on the spot whether you like it or not. One minute you’re defending your tribe in class. Next minute you get told to lead the haka or speak at a powhiri for the school.

(To read more, please follow the link below…)

Embracing our Kiwi culture, from “Me and my Child” NZ


From a young age, we identify ourselves as a member of a family unit and in time the wider community and culture that supports us. Being a nation of multiple cultures, in New Zealand we are lucky to be exposed to a range of traditions and celebrations. Passing on your own cultural traditions, as well as teaching your toddler about others, helps them to learn about what it means to be a New Zealander. Check out our tips for introducing your little one to Kiwi culture:

It begins with tradition: We all have deep-set memories of growing up with traditions in our homes. Think about why they are important to you and how you can pass these traditions and celebrations on. Perhaps it’s a special ritual or song at meal times or family celebrations – these will build a path of memories for your toddler.

Take a step back in time: The local museum or marae is a perfect place to start when learning about the Māori culture and the history of New Zealand. Through images, carvings and items used from the past, your toddler will start to grow an awareness of where New Zealand began. Many visits also include a hands-on element where your toddler can learn about traditional Māori crafts.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

Māori Language Week

Rosina Wiparata: A Legacy of Māori Language Education

Rosina Collage FY Dates

As told to Kirsteen McLay-Knopp by Rosina’s daughter, Amy Wiparata-Valentine

Amy Wiparata-Valentine still mourns the early death of her mother, Rosina Wiparata, who passed away in 2013 at age 58. Rosina was born on 4th June 1955 in Mungavin Avenue, Canon’s Creek, Porirua (in the North Island of Aotearoa/ New Zealand), the third of seventeen children.  Proud of her Māori heritage (her iwi are Ngapuhi and Ngati Tamatera), Rosina was a strong, generous woman with many talents and a good sense of humour (I can say this from the heart, because I knew Rosina personally).  Amy is Rosina’s second of five children and she remembers how the family moved to Ōtepoti/ Dunedin when she was a child in the 1980s.
“We moved to Turnball Street in Brockville,” Amy says.  “Mum was walking to the shop one day in 1987 when she saw Denise Rakete, a neighbour, at the bus stop with her children.  When she asked them where they were going, Denise replied ‘Kōhanga Reo’.  My mother had never heard of Kōhanga Reo before and asked Denise more about it.”
Maori Lady & baby FY

Until World War II (1939–1945) most New Zealand Māori people spoke Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) as their first language.  By the 1980s however, fewer than 20% of Māori spoke the language well enough to be classed as native speakers. The causes of the decline included the switch from using Māori to compulsary use of English in schools, as well as increasing urbanisation, which disconnected younger generations from their extended families, in particular their grandparents, who traditionally played a large part in family life.  As a result, many Māori children failed to learn their ancestral language, and generations of non-Māori-speaking Māori people emerged.

Recognizing the danger of losing their language, Māori leaders initiated Te Reo Māori recovery-programs.  Kōhanga Reo literally means “language nest”.  These were started up in 1982 for Kindergarten aged children (0-5 years) to be immersed in Te Reo Māori from infancy to the start of school. Then, in the later 1980s, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, a primary school programme in Te Reo Māori, was set up.

Despite efforts at language revival through the 1970s and the beginning of the Kōhanga Reo movement  in 1982,  it wasn’t until 1987 that Te Reo Māori became an official language of Aotearoa/ New Zealand (alongside English and NZ sign language).

Amy Wiparata FY

Amy Wiparata Valentine remembers how her mother, Rosina, was one of the founders of Whakaari Kohanga Reo in Brockville, Dunedin, NZ.

“Back in 1987 there was only one Kōhanga Reo in Dunedin,” Amy remembers.  “It was Arai Te Uru, near Otago University.  This was great for those who lived and worked in that area, but not so convenient for people in Brockville, particularly those on lower incomes who often had transport issues.  My Mum decided she wanted to be part of initiating a Kōhanga Reo in Brockville.”

Amy says Rosina began by speaking to the priest of the Catholic church on the corner of Wray Street and Brockville Road.  “The brotherhood of monks agreed, so long as the building was still free on Sundays for their services.  Together with my mother, there were seven founding members.  The others were: Hiria Singe (Nani Hiria), Nani Milly, Nani Jackson, Hawea Grant, Pop Hune and Denise Rakete.  My mother and Denise were the two “waka rowers” (hands on teachers).  Wirimu Quidley (who is now a kaumatua [elder], but was not back then) thought up the idea of calling this Kōhanga Reo “Whakaari” (which means “the hill”, thus representing the hill suburb of Brockville) [the English transliteration of the Māori word “Whakaari” is “Wakari”].”

“My brother Thomas was the first child enrolled on 22nd July 1987,” Amy says.  “The Ministry of Māori Affairs later granted  Whakaari Kōhanga Reo $5000 annually for paying staff and resources and eventually Mum and her colleagues were able to rent their own facilities.”

Nearly three decades later,  Whakaari Kōhanga Reo continues to have a strong and constant roll.  Rosina wasn’t just a founding member of Whakaari Kōhanga Reo: her relationship with the Kōhanga continued to be strong for years afterwards (her grandchildren attended with my children when I met Amy and Rosina in 2008).  Amy tells us her mother was “passionate about helping the community, particularly women and children.”  Raising five children as a solo mother, Rosina, aside from being involved with Kōhanga, still managed to work in women’s groups (in particular supporting women and children who were vicitims of domestic violence) , at the Dunedin Community Law Centre  and on Treaty of Waitangi workshops (educating all New Zealanders about things Māori).

Whakatauki Collage

“Mum was also passionate about being Māori,” Amy says.  “She wore her moko [Māori tatoo, on women usually to the lips and chin] with pride.  Mum didn’t care who you were or what your background was– nobody phased her.  To her the most important thing was where a person was going and who they could be. She was proud of her roots and proud to share her knowledge with others.  If she could give a sense of her culture, language and heritage, as well as feeling it was being respected, valued and passed on to the younger generation, she was happy.”

Obituary Rosina

A Memorial to Rosina Wiparata which appeared in the Dunedin newspaper “The Otago Daily Times” on the first anniversary of her death.

Sadly, on 29th September 2013, Rosina suddenly passed away from complications as a result of having suffered from a stroke and aneurysm earlier that year.

“It still hurts that she passed away before her time,” Amy says. “I still miss her: she was my best friend as well as my Mum.  She was one of the most influential people I’ve met and I’m so proud to be able to say that about my own mother.”

Rosina is survived by her five children: John, Amy, Sheila, Thomas and Rawiri and her mokopuna (grandchildren).



Further Reading about Rosina Wiparata’s Community Work (and that of others in Aotearoa/ New Zealand) can be found in the following book:

large_community-development-cover-smallCommunity development : insights for practice in Aotearoa New Zealand







Links Related to this Article (including resources for teaching children Te Reo Māori):