Tomorrow marks 30 years since the establishment of the Māori Language Commission, but its CEO says the future of the language is still up in the air.
The Commission was established in 1987 and Sir Timoti Karetu was appointed its first commissioner. Since then, we have seen the emergence of the language to our TV screens, but Apanui says there is still work to be done, “We all know that the Māori is still in the balance. About 20% of Māori can speak Māori. We want that number to increase. We need that number to increase.”
The Māori language has been a polarising issue in past. The nation and our political parties alike were divided on whether our schools should make te reo Māori compulsory. Just this week there was friction in the House when Winston Peters accused Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell of 'hiding behind the Māori Language' by answering questions about housing in te reo Māori.
“Māori can't do it themselves. The language is suffering because it is not spoken in our schools, it is not spoken frequently enough in our own Parliament,” said Apanui.
A new entity called Te Mātāwai has been established with the focus on the Māori language. Apanui says it means the Commission now has a new focus. “Leave Māori and iwi and hapū to Te Mātāwai. We will support them occasionally in looking at that demographic, that is the directive from the board, however, the Commission’s main focus now is on Māori.”
The celebrations for the anniversary start tomorrow in Wellington.