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No. 10 (April 1955)
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Robert Nepia. (photo: john ashton).

Whakarewarewa Maori Children's visit to Hutt and Wellington

When 42 Maori youngsters from Whakarewarewa Maori school visited Lower Hutt recently, local residents competed keenly to billet them. On the first day it was known that billets were wanted offers came from 60 homes.

The Maori children, whose ages ranged from 10 to 13, were the guests of the Eastern Hutt School which, though a public school, has a Maori headmaster, Mr William Sparks, and a Maori first assistant master, Mr E. H. Nepia, who comes from Nuhaka.

Mr Sparks, who was born at Waikawa, a small Maori settlement near Picton, has spent most of his teaching career at Maori schools. He left the Maori Schools Branch in 1950 when he was appointed headmaster at Eastern Hutt, a school with some 550 children on the roll.

The purpose of the Maori children's stay with the Eastern Hutt children was to make an educational tour of Wellington and the Hutt Valley. Mr F. H. Leonard, a master at the Whakarewarewa school and Mrs D. T. Alexander, wife of the headmaster, accompanied the youngsters on the trip.

The visit was a sequel to another which a group from Whakarewarewa made to Auckland last year with Mr Alexander. That trip was such a success that he decided to send a group to the Wellington district.

The billets question was a big one, but when Mr Sparks asked his pupils to put it to their parents the matter was solved. Many offers rolled in after the initial 60 were received.

Some of the visiting children felt a little strange at their billets at first but their hosts made such cordial efforts to give them a good time and make them at home that the youngsters were soon revelling in the excitement. And there was plenty to be excited about. The itinerary included visits to the museum, zoo,

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fire station, aerodrome and a Vienna Boys' Choir matinee. There were informal outings too, arranged by the hosts themselves.

The Hutt Valley parents gave the Maori children high praise for their behaviour. There were no exceptions. The children won their respect.

In one case a little Maori girl helped so much about the house that the girls of the house, who did not usually help much, followed her example.

Throughout the visit the two groups of children mingled and romped together, enjoying each other's company and friendship. What they had they shared; sweets, soft drinks, food. Binding friendships were formed.

So successful was the visit that arrangements were quickly made for a group of Eastern Hutt School children to visit the Rotorua-Bay of Plenty area, on an educational tour, as guests of the Whakarewarewa Maori School. On the itinerary were hydro-electric and forestry projects, as well as sight seeing trips round Rotorua.

The exchange of visits has not been limited to the youngsters. Since the Maori children's trip some of the Lower Hutt parents have visited the Rotorua parents, and more intend doing so.

Though the purpose of the visits was to give the children educational tours, they have done more than that. For out of the contact, understanding and goodwill have been developed—not only between children of the two races, but between parents as well.

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Tommy Morrison, Murray Cooke and Jennifer Cooke at the home of Mr and Mrs John R. Cooke, Lower Hutt. (photo: john ashton.)