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Ēhara tāku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini: the power of a collective

This paper describes a community-led parenting initiative that focuses on babies’ and young children’s oral language. The authors present a path in oral language research and parental support congruent with a philosophy that promotes linguistic and cultural pluralism within the Aotearoa/New Zealand context. International research is filtered and incorporated based on the contextual fit and woven together with the rich local knowledge of parenting partners.

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Transmission of skills and knowledge is a core message in dominant discourses surrounding early verbal and non-verbal communication of babies. Narrow conceptualisations fail to place adequate emphasis on sociocultural elements of language and children’s sophisticated non-verbal communication. Utilising Kaupapa Māori research methods, this study describes a critical reflective narrative of a community-led parenting programme that makes space for whānau to re-centre Indigenous linguistic and cultural practices. ‘He Awa Whiria/The Braided Rivers’ metaphor is used to illustrate three themes derived from the analysis: Ma te kotahitanga e whai kaha ai mātau/In unity we have strength, reciprocity/whakaututu, whānau ki te whānau and manaakitanga/love and compassion for others. Data sources included focus groups; interviews; and reflective researcher memos. The evolution of the collective-agentive approach is illustrated within each theme with selected critical episodes. This study describes the parent-coaches-researchers journey to illustrate how a community’s rangatiratanga/sovereignty led to system transformation. The whānau collective journey represents an organic response of one ‘targeted’ community to lead the way in responding to deficit assumptions of parents and their children held by educators in the realm of early oral language. Indigeneous knowledge, ways of being and languaging are central and valid for the success of all tamariki/children.


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