NZ's only Kiribati lawyer reclaimed her language through social media

July 13, 2020

Tekatau Bio, the only Kiribati laywer based in New Zealand.

A Kiribati solicitor based in Napier says she reclaimed her language with the help of her parents and social media. 

Tekatau Bio is the only Kiribati lawyer based in New Zealand and she is one of many i-Kiribati who will celebrate Kiribati Language Week, the first time it has been formally recognised in New Zealand. 

Speaking on Pacific Breakfast, Bio says she wanted to follow her uncle's footsteps into the law profession.

"One of the most influential people in my life was my dad's older brother. He was a magistrate back in the islands and so I thought that was pretty cool, I wanted to follow his footsteps.

"I'm very passionate about giving people a voice and I guess being a foreigner in a country, you need someone to be that voice and so that's kind of my main purpose to be a lawyer."

Moving to New Zealand when she was two, Bio says she lost the Kiribati language growing up.

“I was very fluent in the language and then I grew up in mainstream New Zealand and then I became fluent in English and I actually lost the language myself.”

But with the help of her family and technology, Bio found a way to reclaim her language.

“The likes of social media helped me gain the language back by being able to read people’s comments and asking my parents, ‘what does this mean and how do you say that?’ and eventually, I was able to get the language back that way.”

The Napier-based solicitor advises young i-Kiribati in New Zealand to take advantage of the resources available to learn more about the Kiribati language and culture.

“This is Kiribati language week. This is our independence week. Embrace it, even if you don’t know the language. Walk around with your lavalava or tiibuta. It’s not something to hide, it’s something to celebrate and cherish.”

Bio says she will celebrate Kiribati Language Week by spending time with her family in Waikato.