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Police Buff Up Their Māori Language Skills

October 6, 2010

Napier Police are continuing to reach out to the Māori community by learning te reo and some customary practices.

Sixteen officers recently took part in a 10-week programme organised by police iwi liaison officer Rob Rutene and designed by EIT’s Faculty of Māori Studies, Te Manga Māori.

The three-hour weekly classes were held at EIT’s Maraenui Learning Centre – a venue which worked well, Rob says, taking police away from their usual work environments and putting them into an environment where the community could see them proactively learning about Māori culture.

Area Commander Kevin Kalff and three senior sergeants were part of the group, which included a range of ethnicities and officers working in a variety of roles such as road safety, CIB, at risk youth programmes and community policing.

Rob was pleased with the uptake for the voluntary course.

“The biggest thing was probably the commitment.  Many of us work in the Māori community and have a lot of engagement with Māori so learning te reo and tikanga is important. “

About half of the officers taking part attended the inaugural course held last year, and for them it was an opportunity to refresh and further develop their language skills.

The interactive approach to learning included waiata, role playing, Māori brain & body co-ordination exercises.

Speakers during the programme included EIT Director-Māori Roger Maaka, kaumatua Tuahine Northover and lecturers from EIT’s School of Education and Social Sciences who took classes in Pacific Island culture.

The training programme started with a powhiri and included a sleep-over (noho marae) at Te Manga Māori and instruction in the art of public formal speechmaking (whaikorero) & karanga.

EIT tutor Kare Tipa Rogers says that while the main focus of the classes was to assist officers to communicate effectively  by learning to pronounce Te reo Māori correctly, the officers were also given some insight into customary concepts, Māori values and treaty issues.

“Getting the pronunciation of people’s names, street names, community organisations right, helps break down barriers between different cultures within a community,” Kare explains.

As the programme finale, participants organised and laid down a hangi at Waiohiki marae.  Partners and children joined the officers and EIT staff for the communal feast at Te Manga Māori.

“For me,” says Kare, “having everyone join in and enjoy the event was the highlight. Whanau is very much at the heart of Māori culture.”

The feedback from officers was that they enjoyed the whole learning experience and had learned a lot.
“It will happen again next year,” promises Rob.