Ko Te Arawa te waka
Ko Te Arawa te iwi
Ko Ngati Uenukukopako, Ngati Rangiteorere, Ngati Te Roro-o-te-Rangi nga oku hapu
Ko Whakapoungakau te Taumata
Ko Rotorua te moana
Ko Ruamata, ko Mataikotare, ko Owhata nga oku marae
Ko Kere Cookson-Ua toku ingoa.
Kere Cookson-Ua and his partner of 16 years, Tracy Collyer, moved to Christchurch in 2016. Kere’s turangawaewae is Rotorua, so it was not an easy move to make – as well as leaving their home and jobs, they also left behind their connection to a strong Māori community.
They were introduced into our Hei Whakapiki Mauri whānau by Massey, who they met during Kere’s stay at Burwood Hospital. Kere and Tracy came along to a hangi and te reo evening and in doing so were able to re-ignite their cultural connection.
“We went from lives that were centred around our marae and hapu, to a new city where there were no Māori around. This left a big hole in our lives,” says Tracy.
“Being welcomed into a strong Māori community has been awesome for us. To be able to talk to other people who know how to navigate the system, and do so with such a positive attitude, has been invaluable for us.
“Ruth and Gary are such lovely people and Waikura is fantastic. They are always there to lend a helping hand – whether it is support, advice or through organising ways for us to all come together – that’s what whanaungatanga does. They have been a real blessing.
“Hei Whakapiki Mauri has become our family.”
After his stroke, Kere had to learn to talk again. Tracy says an added difficulty was that there was no way to access Māori speech and language therapy.
“We really struggled with navigating a very pākehā health and support system that didn’t seem to have – or even acknowledge – a Māori perspective.
“Kere was fluent in te reo, but lost all his language skills when he had his stroke. While he was able to re-learn English, there was no support there to re-learn te reo.
“The te reo classes run by Waikura have helped Kere to re-connect with his language and given him a voice again. We are so thankful for the opportunity to be able to do that.
“Being surrounded by a group of Māori people all learning te reo makes a huge difference. His face lights up – it is really meaningful for him.”
Kere is a lawyer. In Rotorua, Kere worked predominantly for the local iwi and was involved in Treaty of Waitangi settlements, as well as his role as external commissioner for the tribunal. Nowadays, Kere and Tracy both work for car rental company Avis.
“After Kere’s stroke and our move to Christchurch, we just wanted to get away from all of the stress,” says Tracy.
“Ongoing support wasn’t available, so we wanted to find somewhere we could both work and I can provide that support when needed. We applied for permanent part-time roles with Avis and they have been fantastic – they are so inclusive and such great employers.”
The last few years have seen significant change for Tracy and Kere, so their focus for the future is re-connecting with whānau.
“We’ve pushed ourselves quite hard to get to where we are now – established in a new city, with new jobs and a new community – so our focus is on reaching out to people we haven’t seen in a long time. In particular we are looking forward to seeing Kere’s two eldest girls soon, as well as a lot of friends and whānau in Hamilton and Rotorua. Now that we are settled, it would be nice to see everyone again.”