Māori youth labelled 'plastic': 'I'm not Māori enough but I'm not white'

Young Māori have spoken out about being labelled "plastic" because they can't speak the language - saying the hurtful term is used to imply they're fake or less Māori.

This week we've seen New Zealanders everywhere embracing te reo, sharing their stories, and encouraging others to learn the language.

But for many Māori who can't speak it, Te Wiki o te Reo Māori can be a stark reminder of the guilt and shame they feel not knowing their own language.

Eve Duncan Spring is from the iwi of Ngāruahine, but she's never learned how to speak her language.

Growing up it wasn't spoken in her home, and it wasn't offered as a language at the schools she went to.

"Where do I fit because if I say I'm Māori I'm not Māori enough but I'm not white, so if anything it just makes me sad," she said.

According to the 2013 census, just over 127,000 Māori can hold a conversation in te reo.

For Emma Brown, from Ngāpuhi, Māori was her first language as she went to Kohanga Reo.

But she was then enrolled into mainstream education for the rest of her schooling.

Now, she said, she could hold a conversation with a 5-year-old - anyone older and she feels out of her depth.

"We stopped using it around home and obviously stopped speaking Māori at school.

"I found that the better I got going through the westernised education system, the less I was able to retain that Māori that I learnt as a young kid."

She said through high school she often seemed worlds apart from the other Māori.

She had different interests from her peers, she enjoyed physics and she didn't hang out at the school marae.

As a result she was labelled 'plastic' by them, a term which still makes her angry.

"I don't know who came up with the standard."

"I've never heard a Pākehā be called plastic, but it's applied to every other culture like we've got standards to meet that someone else set for us."

Both Ms Duncan Spring and Ms Brown said the main reason they're not able to speak Māori has been their surroundings.

'It comes from within'

Jaymi Hirawani McTaggart had the same experience and she said she has been called plastic several times.

That's further complicated by her Pākehā-Chinese father and his stance on learning te reo Māori.

"I actually got discouraged by a couple of people. There's a outlook about it like 'it's not a global language, why's it so important to learn?' My dad was like, 'you should learn mandarin'."

However not everyone around them has been judgemental.

Tumanako Fa'aui said despite not being able to speak Māori he has had support from his elders.

"I've had enough kaumātua and fairly influential people tell me that it comes from within, it shouldn't be what's on the outside.

"You're Māori because of your whakapapa, it's not something for someone else to tell you."

Despite the label and the names, they're all taking steps to learn their reo. They've enrolled in courses and are learning from those around them who speak Māori.

Ms Brown said she still needs to put in more effort.

"We did a course at Unitec, the free Māori courses. My nana was fluent and my dad is so there are opportunities around for me to learn."

Mr Fa'aui said speaking with his mum at home has been the biggest help.

"I've been doing correspondence te reo courses and my mum has picked it up again so we're trying to speak as much as we can to each other at home."

- Reporting by Radio NZ's Eden More

rnz.co.nz

Jaymi Hirawani McTaggart, Emma Brown, Tumanako Fa’aui and Eve Duncan Spring talk about being labelled 'plastic'.
Jaymi Hirawani McTaggart, Emma Brown, Tumanako Fa’aui and Eve Duncan Spring talk about being labelled 'plastic'. Source: rnz.co.nz



Opinion: Will getting ahead in New Zealand increasingly become a lottery?

After recent struggles to get into the KiwiBuild ballot, it got me thinking what other things we used to take for granted in New Zealand might one day be left up to a lottery system?

Source: 1 NEWS

As the cost of living continues to race away from wages, it becomes increasingly hard to get on the property market, especially in the hyper-inflated Auckland region where I work and live.

In turn, this has led to the Government's KiwiBuild initiative, a noble one indeed, but something that would have been unimaginable back in my parents' day.

Outdated lending restrictions used by the major banks are not helping matters.

Currently, you can't get finance for a brand new affordable apartment with all the mod-cons if it's under 40 square metres, as most are these days.

However, they are more than happy to lend on a old tired more expensive apartment that is falling apart, which just hits the 40 square metre mark, and often look smaller than new builds due to poor layout.

The Government's "watered down" foreign buyer ban still lets overseas investors snap up these brand new apartments, meaning the status quo remains and there is no relief for the many Kiwis desperate to get into the market on any level.

National MP Judith Collins' comments this week criticising KiwiBuild suggest she is out of touch on the issue and gives little hope of any changes coming from that side of the House.

"Kiwi families deserve a home not a measly studio apartment only big enough for a single person and their cat," Ms Collins said.

What does she have against single people and cats? Are they so sub-human they don't deserve a place to live as well?

So, here we are with the lottery system, put your name in the hat and hope like hell you get selected to be hoisted onto the property ladder.

In the future, will other things once thought of as being part and parcel of living in New Zealand also become part of a lottery system?

It may sound far-fetched, but not many years ago so would a housing lottery too.

* Alan Kenyon is a 1 News Now Producer and would-be apartment owner. He does not own a cat.

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Students to appear before Canterbury school's board after boy punched in head during violent incident

A video has emerged on social media of two teenage boys allegedly assaulting a fellow student in Canterbury.

Darfield High School principal James Morris says the incident, which he described as an assault, happened at the school on Tuesday and police were notified shortly after.

The video shows two boys punching the victim and standing over him before kicking him in the backside after being told to leave the scene.

It appears the boy was punched in the head twice by the same boy where he lay on the ground.

Mr Morris confirmed students involved in the incident will appear before the school board tomorrow with an outcome from the hearing likely on Monday.

He added the school has been in contact with the parents of the victim and are supporting him.

1 NEWS have contacted police for comment.

Darfield High School’s principal says police were notified shortly after the incident happened. Source: Supplied

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Live stream: 1 NEWS at 6pm


Make sure you stay ahead of the latest news, both nationwide and internationally, from the 1 NEWS team. Source: 1 NEWS

Topics


'Government coming apart at the seams' says Simon Bridges as second minister gone

National Party Leader Simon bridges says today's dumping of Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri shows more weak leadership by the Prime Minister, leading to a weak Government which is "coming apart at the seams".

Less than a year in Government, two ministers are now gone after Jacinda Ardern today axed Ms Whaitiri following a Ministerial Services report on an incident last month in which she was alleged to have assaulted a staff member during an event in Gisborne.

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

Clare Curran quit her remaining ministerial roles about two weeks ago after being rattled in Parliament over questions about her use of personal email for Government business, and having already been stripped of two portfolios over undeclared meetings.

Mr Bridges says today's sacking of Ms Whaitiri is more weak leadership leading to a weak government. 

"I mean we've not had a ongoing series of chaos and sagas, whether it's been Curran, now Whaitiri, and of course managing or not managing as the case may be Winston Peters," the National Party leader said. 

"The Prime Minister has to take responsibility for that weak leadership. If we look at Meka Whaitiri, what's happened here is very clear. Nothing has changed. She's known the facts about an alleged incident now for week, but just like with Curran she has dithered and mucked around and she should have dealt with this much more early," he said.

Ms Whaitiri will stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Mr Bridges says that's a question for the Prime Minister.

"I think the reality is she still has leadership roles here. She's still chairing a caucus committee, and that's not good enough," he said.

"Still there's basic questions that I'm sure the Prime Minister knows but she won't answer, like whether there's been other incidents, what has happened here. She should have got to the bottom of this and dealt with this a long time ago."

Mr Bridges said Ms Ardern has not been strong enough on the matter.

"This has been weak leadership and weak government. It's why we're seeing the Government coming apart at the seams, you know around two ministers in a couple of weeks, around a coalition where they can't get agreement on basic things, this is yet more evidence of something that could have been dealt with decisively and strongly but has been weak," Mr Bridges said.

The National Party leader says the axing of Meka Whaitiri is more slow, weak leadership leading to weak government. Source: 1 NEWS