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Te Riponga: Puni Reo Poitarawhiti

Puni Reo initiative highlighted as integral to normalising Māori language in communities

16 September 2021

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Boosting support and resource for innovative initiatives like Puni Reo Poitarawhiti, the first Māori language-only netball tournament in Auckland is integral to supporting the normalisation of te reo.

Te Riponga: Puni Reo Poitarawhiti, a research project funded by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga investigated the ripple effect of the Māori language tournament and its impact on organisers, participants and communities.

The research, led by Professor Jenny Lee Morgan and Dr Jennifer Martin of Ngā Wai a Te Tūī, Māori and Indigenous Research Centre identified the positive impact of events like Puni Reo Poitarawhiti in the wider community and public contexts.

Professor Jenny Lee Morgan says, “Puni Reo focuses on promoting te reo Māori in everyday activities such as sports, domains that are not usually considered ‘traditional’ Māori language arenas. As a te reo Māori initiative, these events help normalise te reo Māori outside of formal learning and cultural settings.”

Twenty schools and sixty teams participated in the first Puni Reo Poitarawhiti tournament in 2018 which attracted both Kura Kaupapa Māori and English medium schools. Since then its popularity has grown and now more than seventy teams participate in the event.

Research identified the collective input of the community was integral to establishing and maintaining Puni Reo Poitarawhiti as no resource or funding is provided. Despite the challenges, the collective approach engaged networks and knowledge which helped create unique resource which included an online Puni Reo Poitarawhiti app. Students interviewed for the project found the experience positive and encouraging for them and their whanau. 

 ‘The thing I most enjoyed is that we could be playing sport that we all love and still be in a Māori environment and still be able to speak Māori, but have fun at the same time.’(Intermediate student)

‘Te tere o te mahi poitarawhiti nā te mea e mōhio ana tātou ka rere te kēmu, so me tere hoki tō rere.’ (High-school student)

The Puni Reo initiative created by Eruera Lee-Morgan (Senior Advisor, Te Puni Kōkiri, Tāmaki Makaurau) was developed to support the desire of whānau to find safe spaces and places to speak Māori in everyday and meaningful ways. His involvement as a community researcher in Te Ahu o Te Reo project led by Dr Jessica Hutchings and Professor Rawinia Higgins in 2015-2016 helped bring the initiative to life.

Morgan says, “The re-normalisation of te reo Māori has the power to radically enhance the status and value of Māori language and culture. The capacity for social change through the progression of te reo in and with organisations in every sector will contribute to the creation of a Māori language eco-system that establishes and connects domains that value, teach, learn and use te reo. “

Researchers hope support and investment will expand beyond Māori communities which is key to maintaining the momentum of integral te reo initiatives like Puni Reo Poitarawhiti. 

For more information or media queries please contact Taiha Molyneux