The Māori language (officiated, 1987) and New Zealand Sign Language (officiated 2006), has been given special status under law as official languages in Aotearoa New Zealand, and English is the most widely spoken language. Some kaumātua and whānau manaaki may prefer to speak in te reo (Māori language). Kaumātua can feel comforted by hearing their language being spoken around them at the end of life. Showing your sincerity by connecting with kaumātua and whānau through te reo Māori will demonstrate your openness to Māori culture and people. Being aroha, pono (genuine, true, and sincere) and tika (true, upright and fair) can indicate to kaumātua and whānau manaaki that the health professional’s values, and behaviour are agreeable with their own. This helps to inspire trust. Learning the language provides an opportunity to learn more about Māori culture and Māori people. This will help you to become more comfortable with being an extended member of the whānau manaaki in your role as a health professional.

GP K. spoke about the importance of health professionals having some experience and skill in using te reo Māori.

Ah I don’t know if we’ve talked much about te reo Māori except in this last little bit… but I think that’s really important for people to have understanding of te reo and basic understanding of tikanga you know if you’re, if you are trying to achieve a holistic approach for Māori whānau.

At a minimum, Māori feel more comfortable when their language is pronounced correctly (the intonation [sound] of the Māori vowels are different than in the English language). This is appreciated, as it can feel hurtful and disrespectful when Māori names and words are mispronounced. For example, Māori often carry their tūpuna names and the mana of those tūpuna are contained inside their name, so it is best to be considerate and careful. Not all Māori have a high level of Māori language skill and some do not have any. Some may feel whakamā (embarrassed) about this.


For health and palliative care professionals, we recommend:

  • Learning te reo Māori and using it in your practices. At a minimum level we would recommend that you:
  • Learn to speak basic te reo Māori (Māori language) phrases or words, and learn to feel comfortable pronouncing te reo Māori words;
  • Use basic greetings to meet kaumātua and whānau manaaki for the first time such as, “tēnā koe” [hello to one person], “tēnā kōrua” [hello to two people] and “tēnā koutou katoa” [hello to more than two people] and subsequent times, a less formal greeting can be used such as “kia ora” and saying goodbye with, “haere rā” or “ka kite anō au i a koe” [I’ll see you again].
  • Learning to use the correct names in te reo Māori for parts of the body when working with kaumātua and Māori whānau.
  • Learning about how to share whakapapa (genealogical connections) as this is an important step in building rapport with Māori whānau. Being comfortable introducing yourself in this way can help with conducting hui and is needed for community networking as well.
  • Finding and exploring Māori language websites and local te reo Māori education opportunities.
  • Being sensitive about the use of te reo Māori when working with kaumātua and whānau who may have lost theirs.

For health and palliative care services, we recommend:

  • Supporting staff to learn te reo Māori and tikanga Māori and to use it in their practice. Training in te reo Māori and tikanga Māori (karakia, waiata) could be beneficial not only for personal interest but to increase the knowledge and understanding of staff about Māori cultural practices.
  • Using Māori words and symbols on signage, branding and images, on their websites and visual and written documentation as this can help to make kaumātua and whānau manaaki feel included as valued consumers.
  • Prioritising the employment of health and social care professionals who have proficiency in te reo Māori.

Te Reo Māori Resources

Health Resources in Te Reo Māori

You will find links to health information written in te reo Māori. There are other resources and pamphlets in te reo throughout the website, but this page highlights some of the most popular topics.

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