STACEY MORRISON is a familiar face to all New Zealanders, having enjoyed a successful 25-year career in radio and television. Now adding writing to her impressive resumé, she published bestseller My First Words in Māori and co-authored Māori at Home and Māori Made Fun with her husband, Scotty. Her latest book is Kia Kaha: A Storybook of Māori Who Changed the World, written with Jeremy Sherlock for tamariki and rangatira, telling the true stories of Māori who have achieved great things.
The book features notable people from the 28th (Māori) Battalion to All Blacks and Taika Waititi, telling their story in a way that shows New Zealand children how they, too, can make a difference.
Our editor Anna Scaife chatted to Stacey about the new book and her aspirations for te reo Māori in New Zealand.
Congratulations on your beautiful new book. What prompted you to begin writing after your success in the entertainment industry?
I went to Avondale Primary School, where I had some great teachers who really encouraged me. I’ve always loved writing, and some excellent English and drama teachers helped me along the way. I guess I have come to writing now because there’s a need, and the thing that I can offer has been the Māori language.
Avondale Primary! Did you grow up in Christchurch?
Yes, I did! We live in Auckland, but I still make sure that our whānau spends time in Christchurch. On a recent visit, we took the kids to the Waimakariri River, and they found out why it’s named ‘cold water’.
What are some of your memories of Christchurch?
I always remember the excitement of the Lucky Book Club. I went to Chisnallwood Intermediate, and I can remember being encouraged to make a raft and float down the river. But that seems like something that would never happen now!
Your family speaks te reo full-time at home, is that right?
Yes. If I wound the clock back twenty years, I never would have foreseen the mother I would turn out to be. Sometimes life throws you a curveball. When we had the kids, Scotty and I shared that bold vision of bringing up our children in a Māori speaking home.
Do you have any tips for parents who want to incorporate te reo into their home life?
My advice is to learn from your tamariki. Often they will know more than you do. Ask them about the words they are learning. And if there are words you know, like puku, kai and whānau, begin to use them every day. Most people are surprised by how many words they already know. Another great way to learn is listening to songs.
What is your vision for te reo in New Zealand?
Firstly, I think it’s to celebrate bilingualism. We could still lose the language, and so it’s important that the opportunities and resources to learn are there. Scotty and I have not focused on compulsion. We are working towards goodwill building, to help build mana and status for the language.
What did you want to achieve with the new book Kia Kaha?
I wanted to counter what we tend to do in New Zealand, which is to minimise things. I wanted to reflect that our stories matter, and everyone can change the world. I set out to find stories that would show tamariki how, with their kura huna, their special gifts, they could make a difference, too.
The book is beautifully illustrated. What was that process like?
There was a group of artists working on the book, and it was fascinating to see what they came up with. The artworks were individual, but at the same time they worked so well together. It’s my fervent hope that this helps the illustrators to gain more mahi because of their contribution to Kia Kaha.