ACT News

New Zealanders say Kia Ora to Waitangi Day celebrations in Queanbeyan

The ACT's  New Zealand community descended on Queanbeyan's Lowe Park to mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and celebrate their rich cultural traditions. 

Waitangi Day fell on Friday, February 6 this year, but a day's delay for the community event was worth the wait. 

Phillinah Utia, 14, of Queanbeyan, right, and Eleni Lolesio, 9, second from right, performing with Te Uki Ou O Te Kuki ...
Phillinah Utia, 14, of Queanbeyan, right, and Eleni Lolesio, 9, second from right, performing with Te Uki Ou O Te Kuki Airani (The New Generations of Cook Island) dancers at Waitangi Day celebrations in Queanbeyan.  Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The park was dotted with colourful picnic rugs and inflatable lounges, as plenty of jandal-clad families sat down to enjoy chilly-bins full of picnic food.

The day included impressive Maori musical performances, community karaoke and traditional cultural dance performed by Polynesian youth dance troupe Te Uki Ou O Te Kuki Airani, when translated means The New Generations of the Cook Islands. 

Hini Tomokino, of Queanbeyan, performing with Te Uki Ou O Te Kuki Airani at Waitangi Day celebrations in Queanbeyan.
Hini Tomokino, of Queanbeyan, performing with Te Uki Ou O Te Kuki Airani at Waitangi Day celebrations in Queanbeyan. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The dance group is co-ordinated by Rachel Boyd, whose two girls Amaya, 9, and Emerson, 6, were among the seven performing members.

Ms Boyd said dance had been a fantastic way for her daughters to remain connected to their Cook Island heritage.

Advertisement

"There wasn't anything around Canberra for their culture so we started the group two years ago," she said.

"They love it, especially when they are up on stage." 

The young dancers captivated the crowd, moving in kikau grass skirts to fast-paced traditional drumming beats.

Queanbeyan residents Ruihana Hepi and Shelton Thrope were busily keeping an eye on their excited sons, Hone, 5, and Sione, 2, who both wore the silver ferm emblem  proudly. 

"Shelton is a Kiwi-born Tongan and I am an Australian-born Maori," Ms Hepi said.

"The boys are a bit young to understand now, but getting together on Waitangi is something we grew up with and they will too." 

New Zealand high commissioner Chris Seed said there were 54,000 New Zealand-born people living in Australia - the second biggest immigrant community in the country. 

Mr Seed said as well as acknowledging the historical signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the foundation of New Zealand in 1840, Waitangi Day was a national public holiday for New Zealanders and a chance to chill out with family and friends.

"It's about getting together, enjoying family, food, music and a bit of rugby," he said.

"We always thank our foundng fathers they decided to sign their treaty in summer, rather than the middle of winter, so we can enjoy great days like this."