Dame Tariana Turia has spoken out about the challenges she has faced by not being able to speak te reo Māori.
The former politician held the Te Tai Hauāuru Māori seat for 12 years and was co-leader of the Māori Party before retiring in 2014.
She is backing calls for compulsory te reo Māori in school, with only a quarter of the country's students learning some degree of the language.
Dame Tariana said she did not have te reo Māori, and that has been painful for her.
She said some people suggested she had no right to represent Māori in Parliament because she did not have te reo.
Hear more about Dame Tariana's perspective and current learners of Te Reo.
Meanwhile, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, said making te reo Māori compulsory at school could improve race-relations.
The government held a hui with Māori language experts in Wellington this week to talk about how to get more teachers speaking Māori.
Just under a quarter of the 800,000 students in the country are learning te reo Māori, mostly in primary school.
Mrs Davidson said there was a bias towards Māori and learning te reo could help people better understand their world view.
She said government departments and public services needed a better understanding of Māori communities.