Members of the Cultural Collections team, Thelma, Logan and Dion, headed out to Waitangi Day celebrations in Holroyd Gardens in Merrylands to present our stunning hands-on collection of Maori and Pacific objects, and share our continued work on the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project with the masses.

To the uninitiated, Waitangi Day is an annual commemorative day remembered by New Zealanders – February the 6th, also the birthday of famous Reggae superstar Bob Marley - as the day the treaty was signed between indigenous tribal representatives or Rangatira and Crown representatives.

The treaty has paved the way to modern day relationships between these two entities. Waitangi is a stunning place in the Bay of islands in the North Island where the treaty was signed in 1840.

The day started off with freshly appointed MCs, the Wagner brothers, acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, the Dhurug people, then launched into an array of talent from across Sydney featuring singers, performers, traditional Kapa Haka groups through to local bands. Of particular interest was an impressive performance given by Maori crooner Brannigan Kaa.

In previous years we’ve had the privilege of holding a pop-up museum featuring artefacts from our collections. A pop-up museum is a temporary extension of the permanent museum, comprising collections displays and museum staff in a community venue.

The objects were chosen by representatives of the Maori community and a loan prepared; the pop up was extremely well received with ritual, ceremony and a plethora of questions regarding the history of the objects, and what else the museum had from New Zealand.

Sadly, due to clashing commitments, the community weren’t able to submit a request in time. But having our hands-on collections available with staff to interpret them enabled us to hold our own without the power of the ancient taonga (treasures).

On display was a Taiaha, (long –handled fighting and ceremonial staff), Pouwhenua (long club), Wahaika (short ornately carved wooden weapon) and numerous objects from across the Pacific like fans and bark cloth implements, to name a few.

We fielded several questions about their usage, function, traditional names and origins especially from younger visitors who hadn’t encountered taonga before. This year there was particular interest in the Museum’s collection with all of our flyers being taken and lots of new contacts being made.

"We have been participating in these community events as part of the Pacific Youth Reconnection Project and even though this is only the second time for us to be part of these celebrations in Holroyd, the interest in the Collections, the Museum and the Project has magnified immensely," said youth worker Thelma Thomas.

This year we seek to continue to strengthen our relationship with diverse communities in the west of Sydney so that participation with Maori and Pacific Island communities is at the forefront of our community engagement practices.