Celebrating Te Reo Māori

In the light of Māori Language Week, Cath Lomax, BNZ’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion, shares her personal experiences around Te Reo and how the Māori culture is brought to life at BNZ.

With Māori Language Week coming up I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how many Māori words my kids could come up with. They started off pretty well covering all the basics, and then the competitiveness came out with them counting up to 100.

It seems so natural for our kids to be learning and speaking some Māori at school now, although I wish even more was being done.

I was very lucky to be introduced to Te Reo Māori right at the age of 5 when I started school. I was attending a very small primary school in Christchurch and we were fortunate to have a Māori Deputy Principal.

Throughout my primary years, we learnt several Māori songs, how to do the haka as well as several greetings. At the time, it didn’t seem to be a big deal, although I enjoyed being able to do the haka with the All Blacks on TV and really loved dressing up in the cloaks and dresses we made (on one occasion from the assembly hall’s curtains) to perform at assemblies with poi and sticks.

It wasn’t until I was around 18 and met my now husband’s mother, when I first realised how lucky I had been. I got the tick of approval when I sang song after Māori song, driving them all home from the pub in the remote South Island town of Karamea one evening. My early understanding has stayed with me throughout my life. It certainly shaped who I am at work and has given me the confidence to challenge norms.

Now living in Auckland with three kids at three different schools, it’s become clear to me that some schools have more of an emphasis on Te Reo Māori than others. I wish I had learnt even more at school and I wish that my children had been taught even more in their early years. It is an official New Zealand language after all and an intrinsic part of our country’s heritage.

New Zealand is one of the most diverse nations in the world. One of the key reasons I went to work for BNZ is the bank’s solid belief in promoting Diversity and Inclusion, demonstrated in many of our programmes and partnerships.

We were one of the first banks to have a specialist Māori Business team and we were the first to offer a dedicated Māori early career attraction program. This has evolved into BNZ being a principal sponsor of TupuToa; an innovative internship programme creating pathways for Māori and Pasifika students into careers in the corporate and professional sectors.

For Māori Language Week at BNZ we all play our part in keeping the language and culture alive. We just need to be brave enough to take one small step and try using some words and greetings, whether it’s spoken or written.

Next week will be a good reminder for myself to think about what else I can do at work, and get my kids to share some more of the Māori words they’ve acquired with me.

Nga Mihi