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The Power of Te Reo Maori


I hummed and hahhed over our baby girl's name for most of my pregnancy. I had a few names in mind but only one in my heart. Hineariki.


Living in rural Western Australia and being the place where she would go to school I thought maybe I should give her a different name, an easier name to pronounce. Would she resent the name if she had to repeat herself when people couldn't pronounce it? Would she resent me for giving it to her?


9 months would pass and I couldn't get the name out of my head and more importantly what it mean to me. I decided I wasn't going to name my child based on the degree of difficulty people may have saying it so she was named Hineariki.


After her birth the midwife was filling out her ID card and asked her name. I said "Hineariki". The birth card would remain empty. Less the five minutes old and we were having trouble😂.


At 4 months old she would have a health nurse check. Here we go again. I arrive at the doctor's and the receptionist asks who I'm there to see. I say the health nurse for my daughter. She looks at the computer and pauses, I'm getting ready to pronounce and spell my daughters name as I do with everyone who asks her name.


She replies and says "oh yes Hineariki!"

Syllable for syllable, perfect. Rolled "R's" and all!👌. I'm shocked. She then follows with "how did I go?" Huge smile on her face and a puffed up chest. I said ahh wow, umm perfect, that's it!


Now whose the one getting tongue tied.


She told me she thought it was a beautiful name and had been practicing saying it all morning. My heart kinda welled up.


Here I had been assuming people who were not familiar with the Māori language would struggle with her name and not even try to say it properly. She proved me wrong and I'm glad she did! She genuinely loved the name so took the time to make an effort in pronouncing it correctly.


This woman who was not Māori, showed me that our language is powerful and we contribute something special to this country by sharing our culture. That day she gave us a little gift and I think through our baby's name, we gave her one too.

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