Papamoa local, Maggie Hautonga Currie has spent much of her adult life living in Perth but after 37 years she was missing her home, her people, her culture and her reo.
In 2021 Maggie sold her Perth home and returned to Aotearoa to get back in touch with her Māori culture and learn the language that she was once made ashamed of and punished for speaking.
“It’s a blessing to me, being given free access to learning our reo when it was taken away from us. It’s a taonga (treasure) that we are lucky to have.”
Maggie restarted her reo journey at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa this year after she was encouraged by kaiako (teacher), Rauangi Ohia, to take the leap and study the Level 5 Te Rōnakitanga programme.
At 75 years old, Maggie already had some reo Māori knowledge that she learnt in her childhood and some that she had learnt through a group she joined in Perth made up of mainly Māori, called ‘Nans on a mission’. But there were still moments that Maggie had doubts in her ability to study.
“I honestly didn’t think I was capable of doing the level 5 class, not at all. But Rauangi said I could do it. You don’t realise that you’re better than you think and I’ve gone further than I thought.”
Making her whānau and her mokopuna (grandchildren) proud played a big part in Maggie’s persistence with her study.
But she also acknowledged the many people who fought for reo Māori to be revitalised and normalised.
“Studying has helped me see the good that’s been done by so many of our people that I never saw before. We wouldn’t have this if it wasn’t for all those fighters. Everything they had to do to get it to where it is, they are pioneers.”
Maggie loves that people from all cultures and backgrounds are learning reo Māori but she hopes to see more Māori from her generation learn and take back the language that was once taken from them.
“This programme is worth every minute, especially if you lost the reo. But now you can come and learn, it’s given to us on a platter. You never have to be ashamed anymore, be proud.”