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A stroke and a pending 90th birthday aren’t stopping Bobbie Jarvis from learning about the culture she was denied for much of her life.

Bobbie’s father was Māori, but she says her mother never spoke of him and got rid of photos of him together with his daughter.

“It took me years to find out,” she says.

“She hid everything from me. I went through life not knowing who my father was. My mother may not have known the significance of this, but no one should ever be denied their whakapapa.”

She eventually recalled seeing the name Barrett in an old recipe book and applied for her birth certificate and her parents’ marriage certificate, which listed her father as Toriwai Barrett from Waitomo.

“I went from there and found my relatives,” Bobbie says.

She is now happily involved with her whānau and has completed several te reo Māori and tikanga programmes with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa since retiring from a long and successful career in modeling, fashion and real estate.

She says the programmes have been “really valuable.”

“I decided to try and learn some te reo, which has been very enlightening,” she says. 

“I’ll keep on going until I learn a bit more. It has stood me in good stead, learning a little bit more about the way things work on a marae, how people get to do the jobs on the marae and the special skills they have to bring.”

Bobbie says Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is the perfect place for people interested in learning about their background or Māori culture in general.

“The tutors are amazing, and I enjoy it very much. These courses are very worthwhile.”

And she has no intention of stopping. 

“I’m taking a weaving class next year which I am looking forward to.” 

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