Jo Pennell is a South African woman who immigrated to Aotearoa years ago.

She made a commitment to learn te reo Māori and is now an advanced and accomplished speaker.

She says it’s something that’s at the centre of her work as a teacher at the Auckland Museum.

“Ko te mea mīharo ki a au he tangata kōrero Māori aku hoa mahi.

“Nō reira ko te reo Māori te reo mātāmua i waenga i a mātou.”

While growing up in South Africa, she witnessed the effects of discrimination and racism and says, to understand other cultures, you must learn the language of those people.

“Mēnā ka ako te tangata i te reo o tētahi atu, ka whakatūwhera tōna ngākau.

Ki te pai ai te ngākau o tētahi atu, nā i whakaaro au i taku taenga mai ki konei - me ako au.”

Pennell has been learning te reo Māori for 12 years and adds her work at Auckland Museum enables her to transfer the language on to the children.

“Ka kawe ana mātou i ngā kaupapa Māori mēnā ka tae ā kura nei ngā tamariki i runga i te hiahia kia ako i tētehi mea kaupapa Māori.

“Ka hari, ka haere mai rātou ki to mātou nei taha.”

Auckland Museum is very supportive of te reo Māori.

According to staff member Bethany Edmonds, the artefacts carry te reo Māori and so it should be spoken.

“Tino kaha te reo Māori ki konei.

“Tokoiti o mātou e mōhio ana ki te kōrero i te reo Māori, engari, maha o ngā hoa mahi e ako ana.”

Pennell quoted Maya Angelou to describe her te reo Māori journey.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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