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Maori New Year a time to tackle social proble -

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Maori New Year a time to tackle social problems

The World Today - Monday, 9 June , 2008 13:50:00

Reporter: Kerri Ritchie

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In New Zealand this month, people are celebrating Matariki, the Maori New Year.

For Maori, it's a time to reconnect with the past and plan for the future.

And it's also a chance to discuss ways of tackling problems for sections of the Maori community.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: Matariki is the Maori name for a small cluster of stars, also known as the Seven
Sisters.

In New Zealand, the stars appear in the last days of May or early June, marking the start of the
Maori New Year.

In recent years there's been a resurgence in the number of people, Maori and non-Maori, wanting to
celebrate Matariki.

26-year-old Bethany Edmonds is an artist, a proud Maori and an event organiser for Matariki.

BETHANY EDMONDS: So it's really an opportunity for us to be proud of being Maori and celebrate it
and let the rest of Aotearoa and on, the secret that is our lives of living within a Maori
environment.

KERRI RITCHIE: Is the culture strong?

BETHANY EDMONDS: For me it is, yes. I practice cultural things pretty much on a daily level. I use
the Maori language as much as I possibly can. I think it's getting stronger.

KERRI RITCHIE: Bethany Edmonds is just about to move to America, she's got a scholarship to New
York University to study the conservation of traditional textiles.

BETHANY EDMONDS: It's going to be interesting for me, taking this grassroots craft that I do from
Aotearoa and plonking right in the middle of the Big Apple.

KERRI RITCHIE: Bethany Edmonds is well aware not all young Maori have the same opportunities. Maori
communities right across New Zealand are struggling with high rates of teenage pregnancy,
unemployment and serious health problems.

Maori make up a high percentage of the people on hospital waiting lists, as well as those doing
time in New Zealand gaols.

Bethany Edmonds says there are no easy solutions to these problems.

BETHANY EDMONDS: On of the main things that I see happening is that there is this huge, strong,
urban Maori thing going on, where there's lots of people living in the cities, and they're really
staunch about being Maori but they don't have a strong connection back to their homeland.

And so, I know when I go home to the far north, you can feel that the people aren't there because
75 per cent of our Aotearoa live here in Auckland, you know.

KERRI RITCHIE: Kipa Rangiheuea works at the Auckland Museum. He's another proud Maori. He believes
access to education is crucial.

He says language is also important and Australians need a bit of help with their pronunciation.

KIPA RANGIHEUEA: Maori, Maori. That's how we introduce ourselves.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says Matariki had a different meaning to his ancestors.

KIPA RANGIHEUEA: It was about harvesting, it was about food preparation, it was about survival.
Matariki for today, in today's times, is a shift from a traditional way of acknowledging Matariki
to our more entrepreneurial time for Maori to celebrate Maori in business, Maori in the arts.

KERRI RITCHIE: He says too many families are struggling.

KIPA RANGIHEUEA: Maori families are often fragmented and more, and not long ago, Maoris moved from
the rural to the urban centres. The reasons for their movements was to better their economics
status. Sometimes as you know, work comes and then work goes, and then we're left hanging,
literally for arses(phonetic) about where we go to now. That's often related, often ended in
disappointed for Maori.

KERRI RITCHIE: What's the feedback on the stars this year?

KIPA RANGIHEUEA: They are shining bright and we are optimistic, but nonetheless we have to plan for
our future and the years ahead.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Kipa Rangiheuea from the Auckland Museum.