In some respects, the thousands of curbside conversations prepared them for a much a larger conversation around the importance of remembrance in nation building.
Indeed, at the Māori Affairs select committee in March 2016 following the presentation of the petition to Parliament, the two pupils faced some big questions around our colonial country’s future. During the hour-long hearing, the panel asked all number of questions, including: “If this day goes ahead, what will this nation look like in 25 years?”
“I answered this nation will be a peaceful, honest, united, and conscious country,” says Waimarama.
In 2016, her wish was honoured, when it was announced by the Crown that a national day of commemoration would go ahead with $4 million to help support events nationwide.
On the first commemoration day (He Rā Maumahara), Waimarama, Leah and Zak Henry – a stalwart supporter of the commemoration day from its inception - spent three days at Korerāreka (Russell) where they visited battle sites, addressed a youth forum, and gave a speech at the commemoration and spoke about their journey to mark this day.
During the New Zealand Wars (1845–72), Waikato was home to five major battles, and throughout the country many battles took place, taking the lives of over 150,000 people. A commemoration day is a chance for people from across the country to reflect on these conflicts.
For Leah and Waimarama, sharing these stories and starting those difficult conversations at street-side sausage sizzles and continuing them on a nationwide stage has moved forward their intention to honour their past.
The larger kaupapa of creating a dialogue about our history is something they feel will be done through many, many more conversations – in school halls, dining rooms, radio stations, and on marae – for many years to come.
"It's hugely humbling to have been involved with the establishment of the New Zealand Wars commemoration and while it may have been initiated by us, we were really carrying a kaupapa that was bigger than we were. History enables you to know who you are, it grounds you. I am excited to see historians, like Vincent O’Malley and Dr Tim Roa, and kura pushing for a curriculum whereby students can learn more about our history,” says Leah.
One of the petition boxes presented to Parliament is currently on display on Level 2, between the Pou Maumahara and the New Zealand Wars galleries.
Leah Bell is currently studying History, Te Reo and English at Victoria University and Waimarama Anderson is now the mother to a new-born boy, Walter Marley