Embracing te reo Māori in the consulting sector - with Emily Afoa

We talk to Tektus Pou Whakarae/Director and ACE New Zealand board member Emily Afoa (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Maniapoto) about why it’s important to embrace te reo Māori in the consulting sector and how firms can show leadership.

Emily Afoa

Emily Afoa

What does Māori Language Week mean to you?   

I am still reclaiming my reo, so every week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori for me – with all the ups and downs that accompany that journey! However, what I love about Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori is the attitude change. My observation is people are generally more open – to giving it a go, to making mistakes, and to being patient and empathetic to those jumping out of their own comfort zones to give it a go.  

Why is it important that we embrace te reo in the consulting sector – not just this week but every week? 

Diversity of thought is essential to invite innovation, challenge the status quo, and create outcomes that represent and cater to the breadth of our society. To me, embracing te reo is the first essential step our sector is taking to embrace te ao Māori (the Māori world view). I believe deeper understanding of core Māori values are essential skills for consultants in Aotearoa. This is only becoming more relevant as we respond to the complex challenges we face and as we seek holistic solutions for collective benefit – now and into the future. 

How can firms show leadership in the use of te reo across the sector?  

I think there are a range of ways – from small scale initiatives such as increased use of te reo in day-to-day interactions (greeting, farewells, and emails etc.), through to empowering cultural competency and regular team training, by setting strong commitments to diversity and inclusion, and recognising the value of mātauranga and tikanga Māori in projects through partnership and co-design with mana whenua. 

You’re passionate about enhancing the representation of te ao Māori in your work – what does that look like on a daily basis? 

I am! At the moment it is varied – it starts within Tektus. In our daily huddles the rotating lead will start with their mihi, to practice in a safe space and build confidence to kōrero elsewhere. We have learned / are learning karakia tīmatanga and whakamutunga (opening and closing karakia) with kaikarakia a rotating role in our weekly meeting. We use a Teams channel to share resources and articles, for collective learning while recognising we are all at different stages, and even have a few books – including a reorua (bilingual) version of Te Tiriti o Waitangi: the comic book 

In the project space, I have the fortune to work directly with mana whenua for a number of projects, where Te Ao Māori is a guiding lens to the mahi. However, the valuing of Te Ao Māori varies significantly across work streams, with plenty of room to grow. My aspiration is to reach a space where all clients value Te Ao Māori, demand genuine engagement, and embrace co-design and partnership. I think my role as a consultant is to find the balance in delivering on client expectations, but to also seek opportunity to educate, to show how Te Ao Māori and mātauranga will only enhance project outcomes. 

Do you have any advice for people who are keen to use more te reo but are feeling a bit whakamā and don’t know where to start?   

My first suggestion is to have friends, colleagues, or family members to use your reo with. This immediately sets a safe space to build confidence. What I find fantastic is that there are so many resources available – if someone wants to jump in there are a number of courses available, including apps and books, such as KōreroreroMāori Made Easy or A Māori Word a Day. Similarly, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori produces fantastic resources from pronunciation through to phrases for in the workplace. There is something for everyone out there. Karawhiua, give it a go! 

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