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It was a family affair at Te Ara Reo Maori’s graduation ceremony in 2010 when seven members of one whanau graduated alongside each other.

Sisters, sister-in-laws, aunties, mothers and daughters all studied side by side part-time over 44 weeks.

Six of the whanau, Anisha Conway, Waiinu Wanakore-Conway, Carol Pikia, Lynn Pikia, Shaila Pikia-Slade and Teri Pikia completed a Diploma in Te Ara Reo Maori, while seventh member Jodi Conway graduated with a Certificate in Te Ara Reo Maori.

The course was run by Te Wananga O Aotearoa, through the Southern Institute of Technology, with the graduation ceremony being held at Hansen Hall.

Teri said graduating together as a family was a very proud moment.  Tutors Joe Slade, Teri’s husband, and Audra Teepa also helped make the course a special experience.

Their family connection kept everyone on track, as they offered each other encouragement and all pulled together when it got tough to make sure they got through.

All of the whanau had prior knowledge of Te Ara Reo, with three having a teaching degree and one a health degree.

Lynn planted the seed of doing the course, and then they decided to just do it. She said they felt they had a responsibility as the elders in their family, as the parents and grandparents to show younger members it could be done.

Waiinu said now that the course has finished, their learning hasn’t.  “Now we have weekly classes within the family to continue our learning.”

This includes going out to a restaurant and ordering in Maori to continue growing the skill.  “We all followed through and made it grow.”

Teri said part of the course also included researching about history of their whakapapa.  “We wouldn’t have been motivated to do this.”

Two of the group, 18-year-olds Anisha and Shaila, went through the education system learning Te Ara Reo, and doing this course has cemented their knowledge.  “Having that diploma is a huge achievement. It will open doors for them,” Lynn said.

They have all now recommended the course to other members of the family and friends.  “Other people can’t help but be swept up in it,” Lynn said.

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