Paruhiterangi OCallaghan

Darren Paruhiterangi O'Callaghan

Tapuika (Te Arawa), Te Arawa, Waitaha (Te Arawa), Ngati Pukenga

Diploma in Te Tohu Paetahi

Paruhiterangi OCallaghan

After serving in the New Zealand Army for 14 years, Darren Paruhiterangi O'Callaghan (Tapuika, Te Arawa, Waitaha (Te Arawa) and Ngāti Pūkenga) returned home to Maketū with a plan to semi-retire and work on his golf handicap.

But seeing his daughter, Katarina, complete the University of Waikato's Diploma in Te Tohu Paetahi, a total immersion Māori language programme, Paruhiterangi, 61, was inspired to strengthen his te reo Māori too.

Paruhiterangi and about 70 other students began the intensive one-year programme in March 2021 at the University of Waikato, Tauranga.

“Te reo is sacred taonga left by our tūpuna (ancestors). It is up to us to ensure the continuation of reo for all future generations,” Paruhiterangi says.

Grateful for the opportunity to learn his language full-time, Paruhiterangi “wanted his 13 grandchildren to hear reo being spoken when they come to nanny and papa’s place”.

“My grandparents were punished at school for speaking reo and didn’t speak it to my mother and her siblings. Two to three generations missed out on learning their language. I sadly recall my mother’s whakamā (embarrassment) not understanding when spoken to in te reo.”

Paruhiterangi celebrated his graduation on September 2, 2022, where he was chosen as a student speaker for the ceremony.

“I have learnt reo is more than words; te reo Māori is a language of whanaungatanga, relationships of people and the environment, story, metaphor, similes and proverbs that can best be expressed and heard in te reo Māori.

“I’m proud of those who have taken the opportunity to learn te reo Māori. In our class we had three or four babies born in the year, within a couple of weeks they joined us in class. Incredible commitment by their māmā.”

Paruhiterangi served in the NZ Army as a Padre, reaching the rank of Major. During this time  he was deployed to East Timor, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

Paruhiterangi battles with Parkinson’s disease but does not let it define him. Following his diploma, he continues his learning of te reo, undertaking further full-time study and two marae-based wānanga each month.

“It was this course that set me on this pursuit.”

  • Te Tohu Paetahi is a one-year total immersion te reo Māori language programme that is available from both the Tauranga and Hamilton campuses. To find out more, visit Te Tohu Paetahi
Paruhiterangi OCallaghan

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