Keri | Māngere, Auckland

“I think I spend quite a lot of time purposefully connecting with people who are different from me. I’ve travelled a lot, and I’m learning te reo Māori.  Actually, I’m going off to a wānanga this weekend where I’ll be one of the three Pākehā in my class, in a class of about 25. 

I think I get a lot more out of hanging out with people who are different from me, than I get out of hanging out with people who are the same. For example, in my reo Māori classes, and when I lived overseas in Japan and in Fiji, I think, as someone who is a settler in a country who has become the majority, you get used to your ways of thinking being the norm. So, when you then spend immersive time in other environments, you kind of get to understand what it’s like to not be in the majority which I think is pretty healthy, to not always be comfortable.

I grew up in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, around the kind of northern suburbs of Johnsonville and Newlands, Khandallah; what’s valuable to me?  Family, learning, teaching. I’m a teacher at university; travel; learning things; new experiences. I actually started learning te reo Māori when I was really young. My mother is Scottish, and she arrived kind of friendless in the country with a new-born baby, me and at the start of the ‘80s, which was quite a vibrant time in Māori politics. There was a lot going on, and one of the things going on was the Kōhanga Reo movement, so the Māori language nests, and she was really, I think being Scottish and having that connection to the land, wanted to support, and so when I was three or four or so, she took me along to the Kōhanga Reo, which I think was quite an interesting conversation at the time. 

Some of the people there didn’t think that Pākehā had a place at Kōhanga. So, there was a bit of a debate that went on, and in the end, they decided that the more people learning Māori, the better. So I was allowed to stay, which I’m very grateful for. I have very good memories of singing Māori songs, when I was a little kid, and then I went to a mainstream school, and it kind of dropped out, but I think I always kind of retained a connection. I knew a little bit about the language, and had really enjoyed that experience. I took an afterschool class in my final year of high school, and really loved that as well, and then went on to do it at university and just kind of haven’t stopped.”

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