ACT News

Queanbeyan feasts on rich traditions at Waitangi Day festival

Queanbeyan was a centre of Maori culture on Saturday as annual Waitangi Day celebrations got underway at Lowe Park. 

It was a celebration of rich cultural tradition but also a day to enjoy food, fun and family. 

An estimated 150 people gathered to enjoy lively performances, New Zealand cuisine and peruse a large range of stalls featuring wood carvings, traditional jewellery and more. 

Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall was proud to see such a turn out saying it had been the biggest year yet. 

"It's been a great day," he said. "There are twice as many here as last year."

The 2016 celebrations mark the 176th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi which brought an end to the war between English settlers and Maori tribes in New Zealand in 1840.

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Tumanako Maori Culture Group leader Patricia Cotter was hard at work ensuring performers knew what to do. 

She said their red, black and white design within their costume symbolised young people's transition toward cultural understanding. 

"When they come to us they are on the white side, because in life we start out not knowing lots of things," she said. "It comes across to the red which is deeper cultural knowledge." 

The group meet weekly at Karabar Community centre and encourage language learning through singing and dance. 

Cherie Sinclair said her two boys Harlem, 6 and Kaden, 10, were thrilled to be given their first carved wood pieces and learn about their significance.

"We are New Zealand Maoris so it's great to keep our culture alive while living in Australia," she said. "Kaden knows the Kiwi is an emblem of New Zealand and Harlem is wearing a Tiki which is one of our guardians." 

As eager mums, dads and kids pulled their weight on respective Aussie and Kiwi tug of war teams, others made the executive decision to enjoy "choice" New Zealand treats.

Packets of Pineapple Lumps and cans of L&P Lemon and Paeroa fizzy drink were strewn across picnic rugs, while others ordered traditional meat and vegetable dishes made hangi style. 

Roberta Tikitau said the food made by KiwiLicious Katering was a rarity nowadays.  

"There's potato, meat and vegies done the Kiwi way," she said. "It's not something we have much in Australia so it's nice to have it, particularly today." 

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