In 1990 Punohu McCausland and I were working as liaison officers for the newly established Ministry of Education which had a regional office in Rotorua where we were based. I had just arrived from a four year stint at Te Kura o Rakaumanga beginning 1986 which was part of a national network of kura rua reo (bilingual kura) at the time. Kura kaupapa Māori had not been legislated for at that time.
Tomorrow’s Schools and kura kaupapa Māori in 1989 ushered in a new era, kura kaupapa Māori and other forms of Māori medium education was growing quickly. Punohu and I thought that we ought to create an opportunity for a group of reo Māori kura from Waiariki and Waikato to get together to talk about the kaupapa of a national body of tumuaki.In late 1989-1990 some of the original kura reo rua had or were looking to transition into kura kaupapa Māori. Te Aho Matua legislation wasn’t around then. Kura reo e rua had been around since 1978 (Ruatoki) and by 1989 numbered about ten. The 1989 Kura Kaupapa Māori legislation spelt the end of kura reo e rua.
The whakaaro for the establishment of a kaupapa Māori tumuaki national body came from two hui held in the basement of my home in Maketu in 1990 – 1991. Punohu McCausland and I secured some Ministry of Education funding to help cover costs.The whakaaro came from a strong desire to whakawhanaunga and whakakotahi tumuaki in kura who were using te reo Māori as the medium of instruction. By coming together as a national body for the express purpose of growing cultural and professional leadership capability it was thought we could advance the cause of kaupapa Māori education.
Present at the hui were myself and Punohu (MOE), Pererika Twist (Huiarau), Barna Heremia and Alex Hope (Rakaumanga), Jimmy Schuster (Whangamarino), Huria Tawa (Rotoiti) and Iramena Heke (Otepou).
The decisions taken over the course of the two hui were:
- That a body as envisaged and for the purpose stipulated would be established.
- That Pererika Twist would take responsibility for growing support in Waiariki and Barna in Waikato.
- That the group would be called Te Akatea, following a suggestion from Jimmy Schuster who related the story of his tipuna Rangitihi who suffered a grievous wound to the head in a particular battle, had the wound bound with akatea vine to stem the flow of blood and enable him to continue to fight and eventually carry the day.
Thus Te Akatea – a metaphor for contemporary Māori leadership in kura battling to keep alive te reo Māori with brave, stoic and relentless determination!
Following the hui my and Punohu’s roles ended. The Ministry of Education closed in Rotorua. [Nonetheless,] Te Akatea grew into what it is today.
Noho ora mai