Marae visit a worthy experience for refugees
‘‘This same our culture!’’ rang out many times around Takapuwahia Marae on a special visit last month.
The marae played host to 130 former refugees and new migrants, their English language teachers, and support staff from Red Cross as part of an orientation day on December 5.
The new New Zealanders, formerly from a host of different countries, have recently settled in Porirua and in other parts of Wellington, and this was their first visit to a marae.
Ngati Toa kaumatua Taku Parai worked with Porirua-based Multicultural Learning and Support Services to give the group a welcome they will never forget to Takapuwahia Marae, which included a wero (formal challenge) and powhiri.
The refugees responded with a newly learned waiata.
Supported by many translators, the group heard about Te Rauparaha, the birth of the famous haka, and the history of the fall and rise of tikanga Maori over the past 150 years.
To cap off the day, a traditional hangi was held, with a number of strong Syrian men keen to assist in getting the hangi out of the ground.
Multicultural Learning and Support Services general manager Debbie Player said there was plenty of food for everyone and one comment from the refugees included, ‘‘So healthy - no boil, no oil, no spice!’’
Player said a tikangi Maori curriculum for refugees and English language teachers was developed with the help of Red Cross Wellington and Changemakers Refugee Forum, and was very successful.
‘‘The programme, funded with a grant from [adult education school] ACE Aotearoa aims to ensure that recent arrivals have a full appreciation of the bicultural nature of New Zealand, to connect with local tangata whenua, acknowledging their importance in our community,’’ she said.
‘‘For teachers, it enriches the learning experience through the natural inclusion of Te Reo and culture.’’
Player said the marae visit was a huge success and aspects of the powhiri and hangi drew exclamations of recognition from the students, who got more than a learning experience from the cultural exchange.
‘‘They obviously sensed a strong connection with Takapuwahia, commenting on the history of loss of land and rights, and taking hope from the example of rebuilt community and cultural strength.’’
Led by Parai, the group also visited a number of significant Ngati Toa sites in and around Porirua.