An Oamaru cultural services group wants to build its staff and volunteers’ te reo Maori skills this year not plan on stopping there.
In collaboration with the Oamaru Language School, Waitaki District Libraries plan to deliver new te reo Maori classes for the professional development of library staff and volunteers.
Library manager Philip van Zijl and language school founder Sophia Leon de la Barra are working with senior library assistant and te kairuruku o nga ratonga Maori (Tikanga Maori co-ordinator) Lisa Potaka-Ross and Forrester Gallery and Waitaki Museum and Archive curator Chloe Searle as part of a “cultural services collaboration group”, to build te reo skills “cross-organisationally”.
Seven staff members from the library and museum had already attended a full year te reo course in 2020.
Miss Searle was excited for the opportunities the classes offered museum staff and aimed to equip them with the skills to ensure Maori visitors felt welcome.
The library had already made steps to introduce te reo into its day-to-day operations by starting daily meetings with a karakia (incantation), learning a waiata (song), and putting up Maori translations and signage throughout the building.
It was also exploring the possibility of introducing a section dedicated to Maori reference books where they would get “true value”and greater use, Mrs Potaka-Ross said.
“It’s definitely a shifting culture” Mr van Zijl said.
Miss Leon de la Barra first launched the language school in 2019 after a growing interest in te reo classes. That growth had continued, and 95 students had completed the course thus far.
In addition to the evening classes previously on offer, the language school would also now deliver public daytime takina te reo classes at the library and “one-off classes” to help build people’s vocabularies.
The school would also introduce marae visits, offering students an opportunity to learn about the protocols and processes within a marae.
In the next two years, it was hoped more te reo Maori teachers in Waitaki would step forward.
The ultimate aim was to set up te reo classes in the region for future generations to enjoy and to further develop a relationship with the local runaka in Moeraki.
“The language revitalisation was slow to hit Oamaru but it’s growing,” Miss Leon de la Barra said.
“People say it takes three generations to revitalise a language. We want to help that first generation.”