Stacey Morrison

BLAKE Leader 2023

When broadcaster Stacey Morrison was growing up in Ōtautahi Christchurch, she had one fluent speaker of Te Reo Māori in her life – the grandmother she called Kui-Kui.

“I grew up in Ōtautahi Christchurch and I didn’t speak Māori at all, actually. I was too scared to be in the whanau unit at Aranui High School, and I regret that but it is kind of a sign of the times.
“I had one beacon, one person in my life who was a Māori speaker and that was my kuia, Kui-Kui as we called her. But it took me a long time to realise, actually through learning Japanese, that there was something missing for me and that was a yearning to be able to speak my ancestral language, Te Reo Māori.”

So as an adult, while her media career was making her a household name, Stacey set about learning the language. She started with night classes at Auckland Uni and Unitec, where her future husband Scotty Morrison was working. She had the support of her iwi, Ngāi Tahu, which enabled her to travel home to the South Island for wānanga.

Stacey is a graduate of Te Panekiretanga o te reo and was winner of Te taura whiri’s Te tohu kairangi award in 2016. She also won the WIFT (Women in Film & Television) award for Te reo Māori Champion in 2020. She and Scotty now teach at the same Kura reo which were also part of her learning journey, at Tuahiwi and Ōtākou, every Easter.

As her proficiency grew, she began to utilise her nationwide profile as a long-time media figure – as a presenter on shows such as What Now! And Mai Time and a broadcaster with Mai FM, FLAVA, and Classic Hits – to create resources for others who might want to learn Te Reo.

In 2006, she married Scotty, a renowned leader of the language and daily fixture in te reo Māori broadcasts on Te Karere, and together they have raised their three children with te reo Māori as their first language.

The children are all confidently bilingual. One is studying at an English-medium college, another is in an immersion setting at high school, and the third is about to join the rumaki at the intermediate where Stacey is on the board.

Stacey and Scotty have co-authored books, including Māori at Home, and created a puzzle and game set called Māori for Fun. They also worked with Professor Meihana Durie on the creation of the online reo and tikanga course Toro mai, which has had 45,000 registrations worldwide.

Stacey says the couple work well together. Scotty is the ruānuku/ expert in tikanga and karakia and she is the te reo champion, encouraging people to embrace its value and affirming that the journey they are on is tough, so learners feel safe and supported.

“Language learning as an adult is hard. And it’s a vulnerable position to be in, when considering your identity as a new Zealander, as someone with whakapapa Māori but no Māori language to express your identity – that’s why it feels emotional.”

Stacey says she enjoys teaching adults who are new to learning te reo and tikanga and often nervous or embarrassed about what they don’t know, especially if they grew up in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Learning and teaching Te Reo Maori is a great joy to me and just to see, actually, the lights in people’s eyes come on when they understand that there’s different ways to view our world, to view our beautiful country, through Te Reo Māori,” Stacey says.

“It’s energizing, it’s enriching and that’s what inspires me to share whatever I can in terms of Te Reo Māori. I’ve seen the unifying impact it has, I’ve seen the emotional impact it has on so many people and just a light when they go: “Oh wow, ok. That’s a place that I come from and now I understand something more about it’.”

A broadcaster of more than 30 years, Stacey has worked as a researcher, writer, reo consultant, director, producer, and presenter in shows across the spectrum of entertainment, documentary, comedy, Māori language programmes, and news. She is currently on Flava radio at NZME and is also a busy MC and voice over artist.

Stacey was a co-host of the inaugural Matariki national broadcast. She and Scotty co-host National Treasures on TVOne, which sees New Zealanders bring in keepsakes and taonga they hold to be assessed by experts who can help them extrapolate the aspect of New Zealand history they relate to.

Stacey is also the Chair of the Spark Foundation, Ambassador for the Breast Cancer foundation and Ronald McDonald House, as well as a Board of Trustees and Board of Governors member for two of the schools her children attend.

Stacey was nominated for a BLAKE leader award by former recipient fashion designer Kiri Nathan. Kiri wrote:
“Stacey unofficially mentors every Māori broadcaster, presenter, or journalist that has the good fortune of crossing paths with her during her day jobs at NZME, TVNZ, and various radio and journalism organisations. She has pioneered and created pathways for all, with a strong sense of support and care for Māori, who are by far the minority group within the media industry and are often misrepresented.
“She leads with humility and is smart enough to see and utilise the matrix of relationships around her for the betterment of all.”

Stacey says Te Ao Māori can offer all New Zealanders a powerful edge on the world stage.
“Te Reo Māori has a part to play in the realisation of our best selves as New Zealanders to me. It is something that gives us a world view that comes from here.

“When we embrace all of the practices that our ancestors left us, and then we add innovation and we add in all of the exciting ways that we can be active New Zealanders and global citizens, I just think it is going to be our superpower and I can see it growing and it’s exciting.”
She hopes the language revitalisation which has been so evident in recent years will continue at full-pace under the guidance of the next generation.

“My hopes for Te Reo Māori is really that it does return as a language that all of us embrace and that the place names that have always been sitting there, with so much meaning, can give a deeper understanding to everyone who lives here. That it can be something we rejoice to be bilingual, to then be trilingual more easily, just for us to understand that we have so much latent potential as New Zealanders and for the new generation and all of their wisdom to be listened to by us, their parents and grandparents.”

Stacey says she is inspired by leaders who listen to the environment for guidance and weave people together towards a common purpose.

“A great leader to me is expressed in the term Rangatira, which literally means to bring together groups. So, in weaving people together, a leader doesn’t need a fancy title, they just need to inspire people in the way they do their mahi.”