Of Two Minds

Kaydin Budd & Raelene Kuka

Kaydin Budd and his mum, Raelene Kuka share love for te reo Māori, whānau and an ability to tackle big challenges.

Kaydin Budd (22) and his mum, Raelene Kuka (40) share love for te reo Māori, whānau (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāi Tahu) and an ability to tackle big challenges. Raelene helped start Tauranga’s first Māori immersion preschool and Kaydin completed NCEA level 3 in Māori while Head Boy at Te Wharekura O Mauao. He’s studying Kākano Rua (Māori immersion primary teaching), while parenting a three-year-old son with his wife, who’s expecting a second baby.

Kaydin: My mum was raising three boys pretty much by herself, and in that time she went to university and got a degree — a Bachelor of Arts majoring in linguistics.

A lot of time we were looking after each other on the weekends when she was working. She did a real good job managing three boys. We never answered back. We just listened and did whatever she said. She’s always been pretty firm with us.

She’d come in and make dinner and then we’d go to sleep. That’s when the majority of her work must’ve been done because we didn’t really see too much of it.

Mum grew up in Christchurch. There was something missing with her not speaking Māori growing up. She knew the basics because of going back to the coast and seeing her nan and aunties. They’d always be speaking Māori so she just wanted us to be comfortable wherever, in any environment. She knew it would open more doors for us.

She did a number of Māori courses, one through the Wānanga, and also surrounded herself with more people speaking Māori.

Mum opened up a puna reo [Te Puna Reo o Pukehinahina], a Māori early childhood centre. Teachers are encouraged to speak as much Māori as they can. It meant a lot to us to see her accomplish something like that; it wasn’t an easy task. She’s teaching and running it.

She created what she thought would be the ideal ECE centre and it’s really good. My son goes there. He went with my little sister; Mum had a little girl — she’s now five.

She encouraged me to be confident and proud of being Māori, to dive in deep with te reo Māori. Showing people what te reo Māori is about, that’s one of her passions. And she loves touch. She represented New Zealand for touch over 35s. She works full time at the puna reo and in the weekends she’s driving up to Auckland for touch training and games.

Mum never really opened up very much to the boys, but I think she’s relished the opportunity to have my wife and my brothers’ partners, to have them to talk to as girls. And she’s loved having a daughter — she’s been waiting for that for years.

Raelene: He has always been a friendly little boy. People usually thought he was older than he was because he was big for his age. Because he’s quite fair-skinned, one of my uncles used to tease him about not being Māori. It’s one of our family jokes.

He started Kōhanga Reo just before he was three and was fluent within two months.

He’s a happy-go-lucky person, but driven as well. He might’ve been 9 or 10 and they wouldn’t be allowed on the Playstation until they tidied up the room. But he would end up doing it because he was so keen to get on the Playstation and his little brother would be lying on the bed like [she holds her arms behind her head].

All through his schooling he’s had leadership awards. He’s always been quite a bright boy, never a naturally sporty-type child. However, he has represented the Bay of Plenty [in rugby] for his age groups, gone through the Chiefs development programme and he’s led his premier team — they won the premiership this season.

Through high school, he went into a Shakespeare competition. And from there, he was picked to go to England [with the NZ Young Shakespeare Company], and that was out of 500 children across New Zealand. There was a group of 24.

He was thinking about going to Otago University on scholarship; he stayed back when his partner fell pregnant. We have a lot of extended family that had aspirations for him to go to medical school. It might not have been his choice. I think it was quite hard for him to give up going to Otago when his life took a different path. Just how he stepped up as a father. I’m pleasantly surprised at how he’s been responsible and taking everything in his stride at such a young age.

He got a Career Changer Scholarship [to the University of Waikato]. He did a little stint at Boys’ High where he tested out whether he wanted to teach. They loved him over there and he really liked working with the rangatahi — those teenagers, they took to him. It’s like gold having a Māori male teacher that can speak Māori, as well.

He has always been around positive Māori male role models to the point where he is one now for a lot of people, including his peers.

Growing up in a single parent household he hasn’t had all the opportunities that he might’ve wanted. A lot of nos: “Oh no, we can’t afford that,” or, “I can’t get you to this or that.” But he’s still been happy in himself.

He went to Te Wharekura O Mauao and they were only in their second year at that stage so he was one of 50 kids. It wasn’t his preference — he had a friend going to Tauranga Boys’ but he had to go to the wharekura. He didn’t have any friends at that stage because he was new to the area. Now he has a lot of close friends, they’re like family.

From having an uncle telling him he’s not Māori, now he’s confident in both worlds. He has really good language skills and a love for it. It’s like a calling that he’s able to share that.

As told to Dawn Picken
Photography by ilk

First published in issue 22 of Our Place Magazine.