Te Rau Aroha Museum
Te Rau Aroha was officially opened on the 5th February 2020. The theme of the museum’s main exhibition is the Price of Citizenship. The contemporary, immersive and interactive museum is divided into three galleries and incorporates state of the art technology to help bring its stories to life.
The first gallery tells the story of the Māori commitment to the armed forces. It includes exhibitions on the New Zealand Wars and the Boer War, with a strong focus on the Pioneer Battalion of World War I and the 28 (Māori) Battalion of World War II. The second gallery is dedicated to the 28 (Māori) Battalion’s A Company, most of whom hailed from Northland. It tells the personal stories of the soldiers and their families. The third gallery acts as a contemplative Whare Maumahara (house of memories) for visitors, descendants and whānau.
Te Rau Aroha Naming
Te Rau Aroha is a term of respect given to those whose actions embody courage and service to their fellow citizens. During World War II the name Te Rau Aroha was given to a mobile canteen truck, which was sent from New Zealand to Māori Battalion soldiers who served on the battlefields overseas.
The mobile canteen was a place for soldiers, far from home, to gather to hear the latest news broadcasts, while having home comforts such as tea and biscuits, chocolate, and other supplies dished out. On one side of the canteen, written in both English and Māori, was an inscription which when first seen by soldiers bought tears to their eyes. It read:
‘He tohu aroha na nga tamariki o nga Kura Maori o Niu Tireni ki te Ope Whawhai o te Iwi Māori e tau mai ra i te Pae o te Pakanga i te Mura o te Ahi’
‘Presented to the Māori Battalion as a token of love from the children of the native schools of New Zealand’.
Children from Māori schools throughout New Zealand raised money to buy the mobile canteen through doing odd jobs, running stalls and holding concerts. YMCA worker Charlie Bennet (known as Charlie YM) accompanied the canteen which followed the Māori Battalion wherever it went.
Te Rau Aroha was more than just a supply truck to the Māori Battalion soldiers, it was fiercely protected by the Battalion as it followed them into war, travelling across deserts, mountains, rivers and roads. The canteen got stuck in mud and sand and, was even shot at and attacked. It still bears the shrapnel battle scars. After the war, Charlie YM toured the mobile canteen to all the contributing schools in appreciation for their students’ fundraising efforts. The mobile canteen today lives at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.
When it came to naming the new museum on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the decision was unanimous – Te Rau Aroha was a taonga (treasure) and a fitting name.