Youth talk Māori culture and mental health with royals

By Talisa Kupenga

More than 2000 gathered to catch a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess at Wellington’s Maranui Cafe, a group of feminist Wellington East Girls' College students among them.

Katie Hunt says, “[Meghan] uses her voice so much and to young girls looking up to her she's just going to be an inspiration."

Spectator Rona Lemalu says Meghan Markle could represent hope for indigenous groups.

"She is a person of colour and I think she has always used her platform, her previous platform to highlight issues, not for just people of colour but issues like poverty…but with her being a woman of colour, she is absolutely relevant.”

The royals did a special meet-and-greet with Houghton Valley School students, one shy young boy welling up with tears and stealing the show.

Deputy Principal Monica Mercury says, “He is really whakamā (shy) and was a bit overwhelmed.  The Duke and Duchess were very warm towards him.”

Mercury greeted the pair in Māori, "I said 'nau mai haere mai' that is Māori for 'welcome to New Zealand' and she said 'oh thank you so much it is wonderful to be here, New Zealand is just such a lovely place."

She also had a brief discussion with Markle about yesterday’s pōhiri at Government House because her two daughters were performers for Te Kura Kaupapa o Nga Mokopuna kapa haka.

“She said they were 'unbelievable', and 'amazing' and they were just blown away.”

But mental health and youth leadership were the focus of the morning's visit.

Ezekiel Raui was one of a select few to discuss the sensitive topic with the royals.

"I was pleasantly surprised when both the Duke and the Duchess talked about the importance of revitalising culture as a tool for self-identity and a tool for building self-esteem and confidence within our young Māori taiohi."

In June this year Ezekiel was awarded the Queen's Young Leaders Award medal at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of his programme, Tū Kotahi, which focuses on building youth resilience.

He says that honour and this visit has created more opportunities for his projects.

"The Duke asked for my card because he wants to talk about overseas projects after this visit."

The tour continues in Auckland Tuesday where the pair will try their best at gumboot throwing.