Funding boost for Omaka Marae in Marlborough

SELINA POWELL – April 10 2016 A funding boost will help Omaka Marae, in Blenheim, investigate options for setting up a school at the marae.

Seven new roles have been established at the marae with seed funding from Te Putahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the South Island Whanau Ora commissioning agency.

The new jobs are all on a part-time or contract basis and include two new roles established to look at the possibility of setting up a Maori school at Omaka Marae.

There are no Maori immersion schools or units in Marlborough.

Omaka Marae manager Kiley Nepia said the project to set up a school at Omaka Marae was still at an early stage. “We know it’s not going to be easy but it’s an chance to go out there and investigate if it is a possibility. “Our whanau shouldn’t be bereft of those opportunities.”

The aim was to present a proposal to the Ministry of Education for a school at Omaka Marae by the end of the year. Nepia said when he was growing up, he felt like he had to leave part of himself at the door when he left home for mainstream schooling. “We want our kids to feel like they are able to succeed as Maori all the time.”

Close to 40 people had signed up to the marae’s after school programme, Pa Kids, since it was established last year. The programme was a “stepping stone” to setting up a Maori school at the marae, Nepia said. He had observed how children involved in Pa Kids had grown in confidence as they became more connected with their culture. “We have young boys and girls who are standing up and reciting pepeha [introduction] when previously they were quite shy.”

Other roles set up include a fitness co-ordinator, fitness trainer, marketing manager for a range of Maori-inspired condiments and a co-ordinator and support person for the marae’s after school programme, Pa Kids.

The fitness co-ordinator and fitness trainer would help set up a family-friendly marae-based exercise programme. Funds generated from a line of condiments developed at Omaka Marae would be invested back into the marae. The Pa Kids programme would be expanded from one weekly session to two as a result of the Te Putahitanga funding.

Nepia said the aim was to use the funding to develop the marae’s vision of Pa Ora, Pa Wananga, or a living and thriving marae. “It’s about whanau transformation through developing the marae as a centre of cultural excellence. “We looked at all the positive things that were happening with our marae and we thought, ‘what are other things that our whanau might benefit from?'”

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