Embracing our Kiwi culture, from “Me and my Child” NZ


From a young age, we identify ourselves as a member of a family unit and in time the wider community and culture that supports us. Being a nation of multiple cultures, in New Zealand we are lucky to be exposed to a range of traditions and celebrations. Passing on your own cultural traditions, as well as teaching your toddler about others, helps them to learn about what it means to be a New Zealander. Check out our tips for introducing your little one to Kiwi culture:

It begins with tradition: We all have deep-set memories of growing up with traditions in our homes. Think about why they are important to you and how you can pass these traditions and celebrations on. Perhaps it’s a special ritual or song at meal times or family celebrations – these will build a path of memories for your toddler.

Take a step back in time: The local museum or marae is a perfect place to start when learning about the Māori culture and the history of New Zealand. Through images, carvings and items used from the past, your toddler will start to grow an awareness of where New Zealand began. Many visits also include a hands-on element where your toddler can learn about traditional Māori crafts.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

Māori Language Week


The benefits to Our Kids of being Bilingual, by Roger Hanson


If you are multilingual the chances are you are the product of a multi-national relationship or you come from a country where many languages are spoken or heard every day.

The latter tend to be small countries surrounded by big neighbours. The Netherlands for example is surrounded by powerful neighbours – Germany, France and Britain.

Most of the pop music in the Netherlands is in English and many Dutch people are able to speak excellent English and often have a good working knowledge of German.

There is very good evidence to show that people fluent in or even just regularly exposed to other languages have much better cognitive skills such as problem solving, mental flexibility, attention control, inhibitory control and task switching. Research even shows that bilingual or multilingual people are more resistant to dementia.

The Economist magazine recently reported on a study by Samantha Fan and Zoe Liberman of the University of Chicago. They took three groups of four to six year olds; monolingual, bilingual and children who were regularly exposed to another language, and placed a grid of objects between them and a research scientist.

Models of a large, medium and small car were placed in front of the children but the small car was hidden from the adult researcher. When the adult stated,”I see a small car”, the children were asked to move it. The more mentally acute children could appreciate the smallest car to the adult was actually the medium car. Seventy five per cent of the time, both the bilingual and “language exposure” children moved the medium car, realising it was the smallest car the adult could see, whereas, the monolingual children only moved the medium car 50 per cent of the time.

Before the 1960s it was thought being exposed regularly to more than one language would disadvantage a child, limiting their vocabulary in each language and splitting their cognitive energy resulting in too little time being spent to be competent in either.

However, since then many studies, under strict scientific control have demonstrated the opposite is true. Not only do bilingual speakers speak just as well as their monolingual counterparts but as demonstrated by Fan and Liberman their cognitive skills are often better.

(To Read more of this article, follow the link below…)


Rosina Wiparata: A Legacy of Māori Language Education

Rosina Collage FY Dates

As told to Kirsteen McLay-Knopp by Rosina’s daughter, Amy Wiparata-Valentine

Amy Wiparata-Valentine still mourns the early death of her mother, Rosina Wiparata, who passed away in 2013 at age 58. Rosina was born on 4th June 1955 in Mungavin Avenue, Canon’s Creek, Porirua (in the North Island of Aotearoa/ New Zealand), the third of seventeen children.  Proud of her Māori heritage (her iwi are Ngapuhi and Ngati Tamatera), Rosina was a strong, generous woman with many talents and a good sense of humour (I can say this from the heart, because I knew Rosina personally).  Amy is Rosina’s second of five children and she remembers how the family moved to Ōtepoti/ Dunedin when she was a child in the 1980s.
“We moved to Turnball Street in Brockville,” Amy says.  “Mum was walking to the shop one day in 1987 when she saw Denise Rakete, a neighbour, at the bus stop with her children.  When she asked them where they were going, Denise replied ‘Kōhanga Reo’.  My mother had never heard of Kōhanga Reo before and asked Denise more about it.”
Maori Lady & baby FY

Until World War II (1939–1945) most New Zealand Māori people spoke Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) as their first language.  By the 1980s however, fewer than 20% of Māori spoke the language well enough to be classed as native speakers. The causes of the decline included the switch from using Māori to compulsary use of English in schools, as well as increasing urbanisation, which disconnected younger generations from their extended families, in particular their grandparents, who traditionally played a large part in family life.  As a result, many Māori children failed to learn their ancestral language, and generations of non-Māori-speaking Māori people emerged.

Recognizing the danger of losing their language, Māori leaders initiated Te Reo Māori recovery-programs.  Kōhanga Reo literally means “language nest”.  These were started up in 1982 for Kindergarten aged children (0-5 years) to be immersed in Te Reo Māori from infancy to the start of school. Then, in the later 1980s, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, a primary school programme in Te Reo Māori, was set up.

Despite efforts at language revival through the 1970s and the beginning of the Kōhanga Reo movement  in 1982,  it wasn’t until 1987 that Te Reo Māori became an official language of Aotearoa/ New Zealand (alongside English and NZ sign language).

Amy Wiparata FY

Amy Wiparata Valentine remembers how her mother, Rosina, was one of the founders of Whakaari Kohanga Reo in Brockville, Dunedin, NZ.

“Back in 1987 there was only one Kōhanga Reo in Dunedin,” Amy remembers.  “It was Arai Te Uru, near Otago University.  This was great for those who lived and worked in that area, but not so convenient for people in Brockville, particularly those on lower incomes who often had transport issues.  My Mum decided she wanted to be part of initiating a Kōhanga Reo in Brockville.”

Amy says Rosina began by speaking to the priest of the Catholic church on the corner of Wray Street and Brockville Road.  “The brotherhood of monks agreed, so long as the building was still free on Sundays for their services.  Together with my mother, there were seven founding members.  The others were: Hiria Singe (Nani Hiria), Nani Milly, Nani Jackson, Hawea Grant, Pop Hune and Denise Rakete.  My mother and Denise were the two “waka rowers” (hands on teachers).  Wirimu Quidley (who is now a kaumatua [elder], but was not back then) thought up the idea of calling this Kōhanga Reo “Whakaari” (which means “the hill”, thus representing the hill suburb of Brockville) [the English transliteration of the Māori word “Whakaari” is “Wakari”].”

“My brother Thomas was the first child enrolled on 22nd July 1987,” Amy says.  “The Ministry of Māori Affairs later granted  Whakaari Kōhanga Reo $5000 annually for paying staff and resources and eventually Mum and her colleagues were able to rent their own facilities.”

Nearly three decades later,  Whakaari Kōhanga Reo continues to have a strong and constant roll.  Rosina wasn’t just a founding member of Whakaari Kōhanga Reo: her relationship with the Kōhanga continued to be strong for years afterwards (her grandchildren attended with my children when I met Amy and Rosina in 2008).  Amy tells us her mother was “passionate about helping the community, particularly women and children.”  Raising five children as a solo mother, Rosina, aside from being involved with Kōhanga, still managed to work in women’s groups (in particular supporting women and children who were vicitims of domestic violence) , at the Dunedin Community Law Centre  and on Treaty of Waitangi workshops (educating all New Zealanders about things Māori).

Whakatauki Collage

“Mum was also passionate about being Māori,” Amy says.  “She wore her moko [Māori tatoo, on women usually to the lips and chin] with pride.  Mum didn’t care who you were or what your background was– nobody phased her.  To her the most important thing was where a person was going and who they could be. She was proud of her roots and proud to share her knowledge with others.  If she could give a sense of her culture, language and heritage, as well as feeling it was being respected, valued and passed on to the younger generation, she was happy.”

Obituary Rosina

A Memorial to Rosina Wiparata which appeared in the Dunedin newspaper “The Otago Daily Times” on the first anniversary of her death.

Sadly, on 29th September 2013, Rosina suddenly passed away from complications as a result of having suffered from a stroke and aneurysm earlier that year.

“It still hurts that she passed away before her time,” Amy says. “I still miss her: she was my best friend as well as my Mum.  She was one of the most influential people I’ve met and I’m so proud to be able to say that about my own mother.”

Rosina is survived by her five children: John, Amy, Sheila, Thomas and Rawiri and her mokopuna (grandchildren).



Further Reading about Rosina Wiparata’s Community Work (and that of others in Aotearoa/ New Zealand) can be found in the following book:

large_community-development-cover-smallCommunity development : insights for practice in Aotearoa New Zealand







Links Related to this Article (including resources for teaching children Te Reo Māori):