Libraries reach out to support kaumātua Māori

Publish Date : 06 Jul 2020
Libraries reach out to support kaumatua Maori

Kotahi te hā o ngā tipuna me ngā mokopuna

There is but only one breath shared between ancestors and their descendant

During lockdown, a group of Māori specialist staff from Auckland Council Libraries identified an opportunity to establish a service to engage with kaumātua Māori in these unprecedented times.

Led by Wairaka Teua and Morehu Roberts-Tuahine, and guided by the kaupapa kotahi te hā o ngā tipuna me ngā mokopuna, the group knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to give back to those who are the windows to our past - our kaumātua Māori. Library records showed that many kaumātua Māori library members were aged 70 or over and would therefore be encouraged to stay home through the various levels of lockdown.

Over five days, seven librarians called over 500 kaumātua to generate interest and offer tailor-made packs of books delivered to their door. Each pack of books was specifically chosen by librarians based on the genre, subject and preference, as specified by each kaumātua.

During these phone calls, the team was met with different te reo Māori dialects, kōrero and even katakata (laughter). Kaumātua took the opportunity to kōrero and offer words of wisdom, so these calls became a way for our team to learn, connect and keep te reo Māori flowing and alive. Feedback from many kaumātua was that they felt very emotional, special and cared for by Māori during this time. One kuia said she was “extremely proud of the way Māori cared for Māori over lockdown”.

Judith Waaka, Pouarataki Rautaki Māori - Principal Advisor Māori Auckland Council Libraries, says “Our kaumātua outreach programme showed the strength of aroha in adverse times and the important role that Auckland Council Libraries play in connecting with vulnerable communities. The phone calls offered valuable learning and fulfilment on both sides of the kōrero.

"Many of the staff were inspired by the humility of the kaumātua and the realities they face, while the team not only offered a valuable service but also gave kaumātua someone to talk to during these difficult times.”

Currently, there are three staff that pull together the book packs and deliver them to kaumātua across the Auckland region. A number of kaumātua wanted material such as whakapapa, research and korero-a-iwi so they can learn about their history and pass it on to their descendants. With this in mind, each of the book packs included research brochures to connect each kaumātua to Māori research specialists within Auckland Council Libraries.

At the conclusion of the two-week calling period, 27 kaumātua were regular users of the delivery service and demand for this service is expected to grow due to its popularity amongst kaumātua Māori groups. Over the next few months, library staff will be contacting more kaumātua groups to expand the reach and continue growing the service offer.

This service has brought many positive experiences and huge opportunities for library staff and volunteers to network and connect with Māori across Tāmaki Makaurau. It has built meaningful relationships between kaumātua Māori and Auckland Council Libraries that will, in turn, enhance the use of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga and te ao Māori within Library spaces.

Did you know? Auckland Council Libraries has 29 Māori specialist staff who kōrero te reo Māori and can help connect you and your whānau with unique taonga and mātauranga relating to te ao Māori.

To find out more about the Auckland Council Libraries mobile library and access services or contact our Māori Specialists, go to or visit your local library.

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