Te Rau Aroha Opened

September 1, 2022

Te Rau Aroha Opened

Te Rau Aroha museum was officially opened on the 5th of February 2020. 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’.

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The Memorial Gallery - He Whakamaumaharatanga is a memorial to Māori service personnel from both World Wars

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.

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Work officially started on Te Rau Aroha on 5 February 2019 with the laying of Mauri (life force) stones at the site of the 1300 square metre museum.

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.

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The Exhibition: Price of Citizenship

On 6 February 1940 Sir Apirana Ngata made his famous speech at Waitangi, when he characterised Māori commitment and sacrifice in times of war as necessary for Māori to achieve equality as “joint citizens in the British Empire”. Since the signing of the Treaty in 1840 Māori had strived for this equality but the following 100 years saw every generation experience war, first in defence of their land and rights at home, then in conflict between nations abroad.

The sentiments that Apirana Ngata expressed in his Waitangi speech of 1940 were crystallised into the booklet that he wrote in 1943 – The Price of Citizenship. Written as a commemoration of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Second Lieutenant  Moana Ngarimu, the booklet more explicitly focused on the sacrifices made by Māori in times of war and poses the question of how the nation, in peace time, would recognises these sacrifices.

It is estimated that by 1943 a third of the Māori population was officially engaged in the war effort, either in the armed services or at home, working in essential industries. Thousands more volunteered.

The Price of Citizenship exhibition commemorates all Māori who have served in the armed forces from 1840 to the present day, 3600 of whom served in the famed 28 (Māori) Battalion in World War II. The Battalion was one of the most celebrated and decorated units in the New Zealand forces based on their reputation on the battlefields of Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. The museum also commemorates those who supported the war effort back at home.

The exhibition will extend and deepen the overall Waitangi Treaty Grounds experience for visitors through exploring the relationship between Māori and the Crown embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi.

It will foster an understanding that the struggle by Māori for equality as citizens in their own country came at a great cost, with effects that are still felt in many communities today. A generation of Māori leaders, sons, brothers, uncles and fathers lost to war.

“We are of one house, and if our Pākehā brothers fall, we fall with them. How can we ever hold up our head, when the struggle is over, to the question,’Where were you when New Zealand was at war?”

Sir Apirana Ngata

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