For the five days, our cohort of Indigenous youth were immersed in the culture of the Maori people of the South Island; learning language, sharing in customs and building friendships that will last long into the future.

Upon arrival at Christchurch Airport my cohort and I were greeted by Te Pahi, head of the Maori studies department at the Ara Institute and our guide for the Exhange. After grabbing our luggage (and me embellishing in a quick bit of Burger King while I could), Te Pahi drove us to the Ara Institute’s Maori Centre, Te Puna Wanaka, for a tour.

Te Puna Wanaka is where my cohort and I spent the majority of our time on the Cultural Exchange. Atop Te Puna Wanaka is a large canoe – we were told to understand this canoe as a metaphor for progress: get in the boat and sail to success, or else be stranded. Inside Te Puna Wanaka are several great pillars, each with unique markings, which look like they are holding up the building. Te Pahi explained that the pillars each represent an important aspect of maori culture – such as creation and respect for ancestors – which ensure that Te Puna Wanaka always holds true to tradition.

Our days spent at Te Puna Wanaka were deep, educational and insightful. We explored aspects of Maori language and learnt to form basic sentences in te reo Maori. In learning about Maori language, Te Pahi touched on different parts of Maori tradition and society. We learnt about Maori creationism, family and tribal structures, the colonisation of Aotearoa and the ongoing impacts of colonisation on Maori people in 2019.

One of the most insightful moments of the trip was our visit to a Maori full-immersion school, where children learn and communicate only in te reo Maori. Upon arriving at the school, my cohort and I were greeted with a welcome Haka; a powerful demonstration of song and dance which offered us a firm embrace as as we entered the school’s assembly hall. After the Haka concluded, the children proceeded to ask us questions about Aboriginal culture. (They all were astonished when they discovered that there are more than 200 different Aboriginal languages in Australia.) After marvelling at the student’s classrooms for a while – and wishing we had more schools like this in Aus – we headed back to our Maori language studies to prepare ourselves to order dinner in te reo Maori at a Maori fish and chips shop, Fush.

That night our cohort headed to Fush – though my cohort and I were eager to test out our new found knowledge of Maori language, I must admit I was a tad scared of mucking up the pronunciation. Luckily, I was met with a host of community members with ties to the Ara Institute who provided us all with great support and beautiful company. The food was delicious – I had the Fush and chips, of course – and I’d like to think I didn’t completely butcher the Maori language with my attempted pronunciations. All in all, it was a great test of our knowledge and courage as well as a great opportunity to bond even further with our hosts.

On my last day with the Exchange, Te Pahi drove my cohort and I to a Pounamu shop. We all marvelled at the green stone masterpieces; intricately crafted and expertly displayed. I was fortunate enough to gain two Pounamu pieces while in Aotearoa – one gifted and one bought, which were both blessed by Te Pahi. I felt happy knowing I consensually left with two shining pieces of Aotearoa – trinkets I will treasure always.

Ultimately, the Exchange was a once in a lifetime opportunity to share in a culture unique from my own whose people have faced similar struggles. Witnessing the power with which Maori elders, young adults and children speak their language ignited a fire in me that I hope to share with all of my mob who are fighting to protect or revive their native tongue. Moreover, experiencing a bi-cultural society – as Aotearoa is, so said my hosts – has inspired me to fight even harder for treaty, reconciliation and a way forward.

I hope more young Aboriginal people like myself get to experience Maori culture, language and power just like I did on my exchange to Aotearoa.


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This is your gentle reminder to go back on Country. We have learnt through our families, mob and had a reminder in our #BackToNature campaign all about the healing benefits of Country and nature. Go do something good for your mental health, whether it's a walk in the park, a day trip out of the city or a journey home to spend time with your mob. 👣🍃

#Nature #Australia #Travel #MentalHealth
An amazing opportunity for any young musicians effected by COVID, the @adambriggsfoundation has just announced a new grant initiative. Info on how to apply below 👇🏽 

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First Nations-led not-for-profit organisation, @adambriggsfoundation today announces Barpirdhila, a new grant initiative that provides assistance to First Nations artists who are working on a current music project that has been impacted by COVID-19. In the wake of COVID-19’s devastating effect on musicians, the Barpirdhila grant is open to practising First Nations artists - established or emerging - who are working on a music-related project. 

To apply, Adam Briggs Foundation would expect the artist’s project to already be underway, and due to be completed by the end of December 2022. Half of all grants will be reserved for female-identifying artists who are traditionally under-represented. Repost via @badapplesmusic 

#DeadlySounds #BadApplesMusic #AdamBriggsFoundation
Congrats to our board member @inala_cooper  for the launch of her new book #Marrul, launched at @readingsbooks on Lygon Street last week. 

We can't wait to read it! 📚Link in bio … 🖤💛❤️

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Copies of my book #Marrul have arrived! Join me and the good people @readingsbooks in Lygon Street on Thursday 7th July for the official launch, with the amazing Jonathan Green from @abcradionational 📚Link in bio … 🖤💛❤️

Repost via @inala_cooper

#CultureIsLife #MustReads #BlakBooks
Our Fullaship mob representing ✊🏽

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@leyquartermaine_  in the #NAIDOC Stand Up! hoodie

📸 @shotbyjoshua

Repost via @clothingthegaps 

#CultureIsLife #CiSLFullaship2022 #ClothingTheGaps
The Ceremony #EducationalResources are online now! 📙🧒🏽 Culture is Life proudly developed the Teacher, Parent and Carer resources for the second book of the 'Welcome to Our Country' series 'Ceremony' written by @adamroy37 and @ellielaingnews and illustrated by David Hardy.

Download from link in bio 🔗

#CultureIsLife #ChildrensBooks #Education
Alright you mob, it's the last day of NAIDOC Week. Rest up 😴😂

#NAIDOCWeek #NAIDOCWeek2022 #GetUpStandUpShowUp #RestUp
On this day in 1971, the Aboriginal flag was first flown at Victoria Square, Adelaide on National Aborigines' Day [-o-] Still waiting on that emoji though @apple 🧐😂

❤️💛🖤

The flag is divided horizontally into equal halves of black (top) and red (bottom), with a yellow circle in the centre.

⚫ The black symbolises Aboriginal people.
🟡 The yellow represents the sun, the constant re-newer of life.
🔴 Red depicts the earth and peoples' relationship to the land, as well as ochre used in ceremonies.

📸 Photo by @daniel.boud at the Sydney Opera House, Warrane (Sydney)

#CultureIsLife #OnThisDay #AboriginalHistory #AustralianHistory