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Māori glossary helps bridge the gap in understanding mental health addiction and disability issues

Te Reo Hāpai – The Language of Enrichment is a Māori glossary that not only provides translations for existing words, it has also created many new words in te reo Māori for use in the mental health, addiction and disability sectors.

Launched as part of Matariki week in 2017, Te Reo Hāpai includes hundreds of Māori words, terms and whakataukī (proverbs). Its production involved over two years of consultation with people who have lived experience of mental health, addiction and disability issues, as well as practitioners, clinicians and kaupapa organisations. 

Keri Opai, previously with Te Pou and now Cultural Lead for the Wise Group, led the development of Te Reo Hāpai is proud to have facilitated the creation of new language that will help increase people’s knowledge of the mental health, addiction and disability sectors.

Throughout the development of Te Reo Hāpai, it was evident there was no Māori equivalent for many words, such as autism. 

“I have a close friend who has autism,” says Mr Opai. “In my experience, people with autism tend to have their own timing, spacing, pacing and life-rhythm. That’s why I interpreted autism in te reo as ‘takiwātanga’ – ‘his or her own time and space’.” 

‘Disabled’ has been translated as ‘whaikaha’, which means to have strength, to have ability, otherly abled, enabled. This word was created with the Māori disabled community, and has a deliberate emphasis on gaining strength and ability.

“The focus of Te Reo Hāpai was using language that is non-judgmental and based on the strengths and abilities of people,” says Mr Opai. 

“He mana tō te kupu – words have the power to explain, express and define how we understand and experience the world. Te Reo Hāpai has been about creating language in te reo that includes a Māori worldview.”

“We also want to support language that is aligned to our people who use mental health, addiction and disability services. The glossary is especially significant for whānau, for whom Māori is a preferred language,” he says. 

“Our hope is that Te Reo Hāpai is only the beginning.”

Renowned mental health expert Sir Mason Durie wrote the foreword for Te Reo Hāpai.  He believes it represents an important milestone in mental health development and is a significant advance of te reo Māori in all facets of life in Aotearoa.

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