National | Kōhanga Reo

Kōhanga reo stalwart honoured

Kohanga reo stalwart Letty Brown was one of the distinguished Māori leaders honoured at investitures this week.

Brown was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her service to early childcare education. She said this was an honour she dedicated to all Māori children.

Brown said before the ceremony she was nervous but that quickly went away after receiving the award.

“Ï'm fine now but I was shaking before”

Brown was honoured for her hard efforts in paving a pathway for Maori in pre-school education, marae governance and assisting in the establishment of the kōhanga reo movement.

“We started at the time when parents had to learn too and now we’ve reached to our children and grandchildren who understand now. Thus, I’ve been very happy since we started.”

Happy her great-grandchildren speak Māori

Despite the ever changing world, along with new policies changing the education system, Brown is not worried for the future as she believes the competency of people’s Māori language and protocols is increasing.

“I enjoy watching my great grandchildren speak Māori. Watching Whakaata Māori where my grandchildren are dancing for Te Kura Kaupapa o Hoani Waititi. I love it!”

Brown says her faith and love in the future generation are the reason she has the strength to keep up the hard work.

Brown says that is the main purpose of her ambition. One of her dreams that has come true is having her grandchild, Reikura Morgan, who grew up in kōhanga reo through to kura kaupapa Māori to be the embodiment of her ancestors’ wildest dreams.

Now Morgan is the leader of one of the best haka groups in the country, an excellent teacher and advocate of the Māori language.

Morgan says the work of her nanny and her generation’s hard work was done, and it was time for hr generation to carry the mantle.

‘We must not be complacent’

“It has made many results but we see the work of the government now as well. We must not be complacent. We must all stand together as one sovereignty, champion our language, champion our customs, champion our Māoridom to rise above it all.”

Among the other recipients was Lieutenant Commander Mark Te Kani for services to the NZ Defence Force and supporting the police force in Rarotonga from 2020 to 2023. Brown and Te Kani were among the few Māori honoured this week, with the last investiture ending today.