Kelli Tuuta (Ngati Mutunga/Taranaki), Rocky Roberts (Ngai Tahu) and their son, Monahan Tuuta-Roberts of Christchurch, are all learning te Reo together. As Te Wiki o Te Reo approaches for another year it seems fitting to feature a family keen to support and nurture their cultural heritage through the learning of the language. Rocky and Kelli see it as an investment in their future. “It’s about who we are,” says Kelli. Monnie, now 12, was first exposed to te Reo as an 11-month old toddler, when he was enrolled at Te Waka Huruhurumanu, the bilingual Early Learning Centre at Christchurch Polytechnic. Rocky was then studying at the Christchurch Polytechnic Broadcasting School (he now works for More FM) and Kelli was working as a nurse at Christchurch Hospital. Monnie was then a pupil at Te Tikanga Rua Reo, the bilingual unit at St Albans Primary School and keen to support him fully, Rocky and Kelli began te Reo lessons themselves – at Te Wananga o Aotearoa – six years ago.
For Rocky, it has been a journey of personal discovery. He had little contact with, or knowledge of his Maori ancestry while he was growing up and says when he met Kelli, the only Maori word he knew was kia ora (hello). Kelli on the other hand, had a strong Maori upbringing in Taranaki but she lost touch with that when she left New Zealand for overseas adventures in Europe. “For me, learning te Reo again has been about the rediscovery of my Maori roots. It’s made me question my life and it’s made me much more aware of my own Taha Wairua – my spiritual side. But the best thing of all is knowing that Monnie with be fluent in two cultures, that he will be equipped with the knowledge that will enable him to walk tall in both the Maori and the pakeha worlds.”