Published Friday 4 Aug 2023

“Te reo o Kuki Airani connects me across generations”.

This week at Te Whatu Ora – Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley, we’ve been celebrating Cook Islands Language Week!

This year’s theme is 'Ātuitui’ia au ki te au peu o tōku kāinga Ipukarea, which means "connect me to the traditions & culture of my homeland".

We spoke with Tuaine Tereroa Marama Matapuku Faleafaga (Ine), who is the Operations Manager at Hora Te Pai Health Services in Kapiti.

Born and breed in Aotearoa, but a very staunch Cook Islander, Tuaine has worked in the health sector for 15 years, although to her it seems like much more having been around the industry for a big portion of her life.

She has been brought up to care for others, stemming back from her grandparents, her parents, herself, her brother and her daughter.

“I’ve worked in the health industry for 15 years, but grew up immersed in it because family and community are important. My mum works at Porirua Union Health, dad’s a Pacific Navigator for Tu Ora Compass and my younger brother AJ is a kaiawhina at Hora Te Pai, and my daughter worked as a COVID-19 Administrator for the PHO too”.

“We are just continuing the legacy of what my grandparents started. They took care of their people and that’s what we’re doing”.

We spoke to Tuaine about the importance of Cook Islands Language Week and her culture.


How do you embrace your culture and language?

“Although I was born here, I am a Cook Islander. I grew up in a Cook Islands home, am connected to my Cook Islands community, it’s part of my DNA, and it’s my identity.

What I love about the language is that it’s a spiritual language. It can transport me back to our family home in Rarotonga, the underwater caves in Mitiaro where my tipuna (ancestors) would’ve swam, or standing alongside my dad unveiling his mother’s headstone in Enuamanu. I can still easily picture my children, sitting with their great-grandmother, who is singing songs to them. Our language and culture is a connection, it’s a relationship, it’s embracing who you are as a people and it connects you across generations.”

What do you personally love about the Cook Islands community?

“I love the fact that we’re a very bright, fun, loveable and respectful community. You’ll hear us before you see us, that’s for sure. But I also love that there’s a sense of belonging when I’m around my people. To some, our vouvou (grandmother/elder), would be screaming and yelling off-key while in church, but for Cook Islanders it’s a sense of peace, freedom and harmony.”

Is there something that you would like to see something changed for your people in the health system?

“Although most Cook Islanders can speak English, there are mamas and papas who still find it difficult to navigate the health system. Our people need to be fully informed and made aware of what’s expected. I would recommend all GP’s in Porirua refer their Cook Islands mamas and papas to the Pacific Navigation Service at Tu Ora for their appropriate care to move them towards a better quality of wellbeing.”

Fun fact about the Cook Islands?

“Growing up, my dad always taught us that Atiu is the capital of the Cook Islands,” laughed Tuaine.

“And Mitiaro has the most beautiful under water caves, so give me a call and I’ll hook you up!”

Stay connected online by visiting the official NZ Cook Islands Language Week Facebook page.