Australia | Māori

The Māori in Me: What is it like for Māori living in Australia?

The appeal of higher wages, better work opportunities and warmer weather has seen countless whānau make the move to Australia in search of a “better” life.

There are currently hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders living across the ditch and a large portion of those are Māori.

The appeal of higher wages, better work opportunities and warmer weather has seen countless whānau make the move to Australia in search of a “better” life.

For many years, there weren’t many places or opportunities for Māori to practise their cultural traditions and protocols in Australia.

However, in recent years there’s been uptake in Māori providing wānanga, te reo Māori classes and kapa haka rōpū.

This appears to have been largely driven by the advent of technology and it now being easier to access resources and to connect with other Māori living in Australia and at home.

Many Māori also understand they may never move home and are therefore seeking ways to maintain their connection to te ao Māori and to provide their children and mokopuna the opportunity to do the same.

On this episode of NZ Herald podcast The Māori in Me, host Myjanne Jensen makes the journey back to Queensland to speak to a number of Māori and what their experience has been like living away from home.

Jay (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Shirley-Anne Anderson (Ngāti Kahungunu) are based on the Sunshine Coast and run a te reo Māori programme, Manaaki Reo.

The programme has now grown to include tamariki classes and also provides cultural performances for festivals and other special occasions.

The couple say they were inspired to start their business to help their own tamariki stay connected to te ao Māori, as well as to provide a safe space for Māori to come together and learn more about their Māoritanga.

“We wanted to do this for our people to connect them back to their culture so they can be comfortable in who they are and understand where they are from,” Jay said.

“There’s no judgment, people can come here and be who they are, they can kōrero and that’s the most important thing for us.

“It’s not just about the te reo, it’s about the connection missing from home.

“We’ve built that environment here, it’s really family-oriented, like you would see at a marae,” Shirley-Anne said.

That desire to feel a connection to home is something Nina Taukiri (Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāpuhi), secretary for the Queensland Māori Society (QMS), says she’d also noticed had grown stronger in the past 10 years.

The Queensland Māori Society has been running since 1989 and was founded by the late kaumātua Percy Kara and other kaumātua, for the purpose of supporting Māori living in Queensland.

In 2007, kaumātua Tu Thompson Tawha and Maureen Wilson took over the reins of the organisation, which is largely run by volunteers.

Taukiri has been with QMS since 2015 and says despite not having a lot of resources, the demand for QMS services continues to grow.

“Tangihanga is one of the biggest requests, as well as providing assistance with advocating in court, adults and youth.

“We also get asked to help with family court cases, DV, police matters, arts and performances, hospital visits, youth justice, homelessness and for crisis work referring people to other services and agencies.

“We even help non-Māori who want a Māori-style tangi.”

Taukiri says her passion lies in connecting people to their culture, and as part of that mahi she runs a number of wānanga, including one called, “Am I Māori enough”.

She says she started that wananga after several requests from people wanting to connect with their culture but not knowing how to, either because of lack of whānau, knowledge or both.

“Originally I would refer people to kapa haka, reo classes, things like that, but eventually I found that was a bit much for some people that were just trying to find their way in,” Taukiri said.

“That’s why I started creating these wānanga for people to come in and to meet people and to understand that they are Māori.

“I was surprised and sad that people were feeling they weren’t enough, but that’s why I started this and a lot of people said they felt a lot of relief to talk about how they were feeling.”

Listen to the full episode for more on the experiences of Maori in Australia.

The Māori in Me is a NZ Herald podcast, hosted and produced by Myjanne Jensen.

Listen to The Māori in Me on iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.