Celebrating te reo Māori in business and law

Ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia Māori, ko te reo kia ora.

Research released in June by the Auckland University of Technology shows using te reo Māori in the workplace can increase job satisfaction and wellbeing.

Te Reo

Te Aopare Dewes & Liam Stoneley

The report, Ki te tahatū o te rangi: Normalising te re Māori across nontraditional Māori language domains, found embracing te reo also enhanced workplace mindfulness.

This year’s Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) theme is Kia Kaha te Reo Māori and is being celebrated during the week beginning 9 September.

The theme encourages us all to “make the Māori language strong”, so Chapman Tripp’s Te Waka Ture lawyers have summarised what corporates, businesses and the legal profession are doing to encourage and promote the everyday use of te reo Māori.

Whakanuia te reo (celebrating successes)
The 15th annual Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori Language Ngā Tohu Reo Māori (awards) were attended by more than 400 people at Te Papa in November last year.

This event saw corporate and business leaders recognised for their contribution to the revitalisation of te reo Māori, and for normalising te reo in the corporate environment and business world.

Winners included Spark and Te Aka Māori Dictionary for their jointly-developed smartphone tool that helps users learn te reo.

Fonterra was also recognised with the business award for its app, Te Mātāpuna, which helps staff learn more about their sites, Māori culture, customs and language.

The Māori Language Commission’s chief executive Ngahiwi Apanui said a record 36 finalists had been selected from more than 150 nominations.

As well as recognising initiatives and activities which took place during 2018, Apanui noted the awards were also an opportunity to acknowledge long-term commitment by individuals and groups to Māori language revitalisation.

Ngā Rangatōpū (corporates)
Earlier this year, Chapman Tripp adopted a formal te reo Māori policy for its 400+ staff.

The policy, developed in consultation with its people, encourages using te reo Māori at levels appropriate to people’s abilities and sets out actions to ensure the firm builds on its commitment to foster te reo Māori.

This includes continuing to offer te reo Māori classes for beginner, intermediate and advanced proficiency levels across all Chapman Tripp offices.

Te reo Māori ambassadors are also available to help people seeking guidance on te reo Māori and tikanga.

Some of New Zealand’s leading businesses have more recently taken on that wero (challenge) and we have seen record numbers of New Zealand’s NZX50 facilitating te reo Māori language classes for their people, composing waiata and haka, launching apps, and providing cultural competency training more generally to their staff.

Corporates such as Air New Zealand, ANZ, Fonterra and Vector provide tangible resources and support for staff to encourage and promote the use of te reo Māori within their organisations.

Not only are we seeing these major business provide resources and support to staff; the champions for change are also members of senior leadership teams.

Mercury chief executive Fraser Whineray has said speaking te reo Māori was culturally and commercially beneficial for a business that works in the natural resources field.

Although he cannot speak fluent te reo, he used his favourite words, ka pai (good) and mahi (to work), when he could.

Whineray encourages other chief executives to “give it a good nudge” because the language is “part of who we are as New Zealanders”.

In New Zealand society more generally, we have seen a spike in the desire to learn te reo Māori.

Professional te reo Māori instructors and translators are increasing in demand as government agencies, councils, firms and businesses seek to increase their te reo and tikanga abilities through wānanga, language classes, bilingual publications, and marae visits.

Some major organisations have created dedicated roles to provide internal te reo and tikanga expertise and resources to staff. Many more are actively recruiting for the new generation of bilingual graduates.

Te whakapakari reo Māori ki roto i te ao ture (legal profession)
In the past decade, and more prominently since the passage of the Te Ture mō Te Reo Māori 2016/the Māori Language Act 2016, we have seen an increase in demand for te reo Māori to be used throughout the legal profession.

In 2016, the Ministry of Justice began to encourage the daily use of te reo in High Court proceedings, publishing translations of Māori court announcements and training District Court officers and staff.

Earlier this year, fluent te reo Māori speaker, Justice Joe Williams, became the first Māori judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court bench.

With his passion for the revitalisation of te reo Māori, we expect to see him influence an increased use of te reo in our highest court.

In the commercial arena, we are seeing more demand from clients to incorporate te reo Māori and tikanga Māori into documents and processes for dispute resolution.

For example, Chapman Tripp has previously assisted Waikato-Tainui to develop its bespoke internal dispute resolution process, Hohou Te Rongo – an exemplary combination of tikanga Māori and mainstream alternative dispute resolution procedures.

A number of law firms nationwide have recognised the importance of te reo Māori and facilitate classes for their people.

Throughout this year’s Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, we hope members of the profession can embrace the theme of the week – Kia Kaha te Reo Māori by supporting staff and clients alike to use te reo Māori.

Kia māhorahora te reo
(Everywhere, everyway, for everyone, every day)

Te Aopare Dewes (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rangitihi) is a roia whakarae (senior associate) and Liam Stoneley (Ngāi Tahu) is a roia (solicitor) at Chapman Tripp

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