Building young brains 'a super power'

11 April 2023

Pēpi are wired to learn language in their first 1,000 days, more than at any other time in their life. Talking with pēpi is at the heart of Talking Matters, a kaupapa focused on growing strong communicators through language. 

Hana Tuwhare, a community activator in Tāmaki Makaurau, is a trained speech-language therapist who is passionate about revitalising te reo Māori at the beginning of life.

When she works with whānau, Hana takes their dreams and aspirations for te reo and creates a strategy to help them achieve them. She says it’s important to create space for whānau to come together and learn, putting their pēpi at the centre of the language.  

For Hana, helping whānau use te reo Māori with their tamariki is magical.   

“It’s the kind of job that makes me go, ‘oh I could do this forever!’,” she says. 

Hana is one of five community activators across the motu. The roles were created a few years ago when a need was identified to connect with the community from a grassroots level.

It’s about going out and connecting with those who are passionate about the kaupapa, talking to those in organisations who already work with whānau, and finding people who are excited to share language with pēpi.

Hana Tuwhare
Two whānau workers hold Tākai and Talking Matters resources with Anthony Quinn-Cowley
Two whānau workers hold Tākai and Talking Matters resources with Anthony Quinn-Cowley

Working with community

Community Activator Anthony-Quinn Cowley is a pāpā who had previous involvement in the kaupapa through his own tamariki. 

Anthony and his whānau live in Ōpōtiki, and after his pēpi had to undergo a liver transplant, he and his partner were drawn to Talking Matters to engage her in education. Anthony being Māori (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Porou), was interested in teaching her te reo in the first 1,000 days. 

Now, his involvement with Talking Matters has come full circle.

“The passion is still there, and that’s the reason why I’m still in the mahi.” 

Tampy Bernard has been part of the kaupapa for many years. He was first introduced to Talking Matters soon after he and his partner had their fourth taitamaiti, Hawaiiki. 

“The neuroscience really grabbed me, and the culture, and just standing strong in your identity. My wife is Māori and I’m Samoan, so that gave me a new lease on life to speak Samoan to him. It’s amazing how things come full circle,” he says.

Natural Born Einsteins (transcript)

Walking alongside whānau 

Coming in on a lived experience, Anthony and Tampy hope to make every whānau feel powerful in their language, strengthening community from the ground up.  

“Talking Matters isn’t about being prescriptive, it’s about walking alongside whānau, affirming the efforts they do and helping them see things differently and more often,” Tampy explains.

Passing on the kaupapa and helping to build young brains is what he calls a superpower. With a diverse team from all walks of life, whānau and tamariki are in experienced hands.

Although each brings different skillsets, they all speak the language of community. 

Talking Matters is supported through a national partnership with Tākai.

Learn more about Talking Matters(external link)