“Without te reo, I don’t have an identity,” Kay Lawton says.
It was important for New Zealanders to celebrate and learn te reo Maori as it would give people a better understanding of the culture, Mrs Lawton said.
“I think it should be taught in a non-threatening manner and should be your own choice, but if you don’t learn, how would you know?”
She originated from the Ngati Haua iwi.
Mrs Lawton had grown up with two Maori parents but did not learn the language.
“They never taught us because of their own experiences in school.
“My mother never told me about getting strapped but I heard quite a few children got it for speaking in te reo.”
She had always had a desire to learn the language but did not have the chance to until the late 1980s.
“I went to three courses at SIT [Southern Institute of Technology] and I still didn’t learn much, because I had to learn through writing and that wasn’t the way I learnt.”
From her own experiences she decided to find how she could learn in her own way, she said.
“Listen, look and speak whakarongo, titiro mai and korero bit of wisdom behind that,” Mrs Lawton said.
She took this mantra and applied it to the REAP Te Reo classes she taught.
“I would always start my students off with the basic pronunciations.
“I told them to whakarongo, titiro mai and korero,” Mrs Lawton said.