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Korero to the Nationals

Maika Akroyd catches up with Materoa Rewiri, winner of the English section of the regional Nga Manu Korero for the third year in a row. Next week she is off to compete in the national finals.

Materoa Rewiri is on a journey of sharing what’s in her heart with the nation.

She will be one of 60 high school students at the 54th national Nga Manu Korero competition in Palmerston North next week following her win at the regionals in June.

It was the third year in a row Materoa had won the competition here.

The Year 13 student at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga won the Korimako Senior English section with a brave and personal speech about whakamomori (suicide).

“When I looked into the crowd and saw my nannies, my koka and my cousins crying it was difficult to stay focused,” she said.

She expressed how “mamae” (hurt) and “pouri” (sad) she was when her cousin took his own life.

She says no matter where she gives her speech, the topic is difficult to hear.

Materoa delivered her korero at the Te Eketu o te Rangi leadership conference at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae on Thursday evening.

“I don’t think it matters whether it’s in Manawatu, Te Poho o Rawiri or anywhere. Whakamomori is a difficult conversation to have, but we have to have the conversation.”

Leading up to next week Materoa is hopeful her message about suicide awareness and prevention is heard.

“As long as this message is entrenched in the hearts and minds of everyone who hears my korero, I am happy. Win, lose, ehara tera i te mea nui. Ko te ngako o te korero te mea nui.” (Win or lose, the substance of the speech is the most important)

Nga Manu Korero is regarded as a significant event on the Maori education calendar for nurturing oratory skills and providing a platform for young people to express their views and lay down their challenges to an attentive audience.

The English speech section is confined to Maori students while the Maori section is open to all students, but they must be enrolled in a full-time Maori course.

The competition has four sections — Rawhiti Ihaka for Junior Maori, Sir Turi Carroll for Junior English, Pei Te Hurinui for Senior Maori and Korimako for Senior English.

Ten topics are given to speakers in each section to choose from, with 12 minutes allocated for Maori speakers and six minutes for English speakers.

Senior speakers are expected to also deliver an impromptu speech from one of the given topics.

At school, Materoa is a tuakana (elder mentor) to Te Paea Maurirere who won the Junior English speech section at regionals and will also be attending the nationals.

Senior Maori section winner Mawhai Chaffey from Tolaga Bay Area School and Junior Maori section winner Zion Birch of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori (TKKM) o Hawaiki Hou will also be competing at the nationals.

“She is one to watch,” Materoa said about Te Paea.

“She is confident and capable and has absolutely no issues sharing her perspective with the world. I’m really proud of her.”

Te Tairawhiti will be one of 15 regions represented at nationals.

Materoa was a foundation pupil of TKKM o Horouta Wananga, when it was established at Te Poho o Rawiri. The kura is now at the former Rectory complex in Desmond Road.

“It was pretty funny the first week,” she says. “I remember going home and saying to my whanau ‘I go home for kura and then come home after kura’.”

She has been public speaking since she started at Horouta Wananga. She prefers to write her prepared speeches just before competitions, otherwise she’ll overthink it and keep “changing it and changing it”.

She credits her teachers Matua Tiwana Hibbs and Matua Maxwell Matenga with helping her get to where she is now with her delivery.

“Matua Tiwana Hibbs was the first kaiako to poipoi (teacher to nuture) public speaking for me. My first ever speech was at my pa, Te Poho o Rawiri so I was really tau (settled) and felt safe.”

“Matua Maxwell Matenga has always been a driving force behind my public speaking journey. He’s always been there with constructive feedback, korero akiaki (encouragement), tohutohu (instruction). Even though he has moved to another kura (school), his lessons have remained with me and I know he and his wife Sandy are only a text away if I need them,” she said.

The impromptu topic Materoa chose at regionals was “My whanau is the gateway to my World”.

“It was cool because I never really get the opportunity to thank my whanau publicly for everything I am and have achieved. My whanau is everything to me.”

“When we are all together at the pa (Te Poho o Rawiri Marae), I’m in my happy place.”

Materoa placed second for impromptu but said she thoroughly enjoyed the winner’s korero.

“He spoke about his trials and tribulations with bullying. It was a very brave korero,” she said.

The 17-year-old had the wisdom to see beyond the walls of her award-winning speech, which had its beginnings in a different place.

“The original version of the speech was quite angry, because my cousin had taken his own life the week before and I was pukuriri (angry) with my cousin. That came out in my delivery.

“By the time I got to regionals, I was more philosophical about it and knew that the message was far more important than my personal mamae (hurt).”

“Whakamomori (suicide) is a beast that we all need to address and use every platform to bring it out into the light so we can all fight it. We can’t afford to lose any more Maori lives to this mate weriweri (horrible death).”

Asked if public speaking has always been something she’s been passionate about, Materoa says “No!” She honestly cannot say she loves it.

“I can’t explain it. Once I step on to the stage, the kaupapa takes precedence over whatever I’m feeling and I just know me mahia te mahi (to do the work)”.

“There’s so much happening in our community that needs to be addressed and Manu Korero is a space where we as rangatahi (youth) have the opportunity to share our opinions with te iti me te rahi (the collective).”

“We have to stop being whakamaa (shy) about approaching our whanau if we think something is up. Trust your instincts because they’re usually right. Be brave, step up, knock on the door and have a kapu ti (cup of tea) and a korero.”

“I’m deeply honoured to be representing Te Tairawhiti alongside my peers,” she said.

Materoa hopes to go to Auckland University next year to study law.

¦ For the first time the national Nga Manu Korero event will be open to schools and to the public for free, to encourage greater participation.

Major sponsors for the competitions are the Post Primary Teachers Association PPTA - Te Wehengarua and Ministry of Education, with assistance from Massey University.

Some of the judges this year are past NMK winners.

The speeches will be broadcast on iwi radio stations and livestreamed on the Nga Manu Korero Facebook page.

The NMK nationals are at The Regent on Broadway in Palmerston North, from Tuesday, September 10 to Thursday, September 12.

The regional finals were at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria.

HOME: Prize-winning Nga Manu Korero winner Materoa Rewiri at Poho o Rawiri Marae, her “happy place”.