Newsletter December 2017

Microsoft Word - Susan pohutukawa pic


Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete, Manuia le Kerisimasi, Kilisimasi Fiefia, Meri Kiritimiti, Marau na Kerisimasi, Monuina e Kilisimasi, Manuia te Kilihimahi, Shèng dàn jié, Shubh krismas, and a Merry Christmas!  

Thank you to all who responded to our call for themes to include in our planned briefing to the incoming minister.  We received many supportive messages and suggestions and will be bringing the main ideas together to send to the new ministers early in the New Year.

Meanwhile, we have supported the Auckland Languages Strategy Group to send their own briefing to the various ministers whose responsibilities are relevant to language diversity.  You can read and download the full briefing here.

The briefing outlines the value that language diversity can bring to social and economic development and summarises key data and current issues affecting languages in Aotearoa New Zealand.  It also recommends quick-win actions that could bring significant gains, including:

  • Implementing the proposed Pacific Languages Framework
  • Setting a timeframe and process towards Te Reo Māori becoming core curriculum in all schools from Year 1
  • Creating a Community Languages Framework
  • Developing a Hindi language curriculum
  • Undertaking a national consultation towards eventual development of a national languages policy.

It’s hard to believe the end of year is almost upon us.  As we look back on 2017 and ahead to new challenges in 2018, we’re encouraged to reflect on the many stories of change we’ve been privileged to be part of this year.  You can read about some of them in this newsletter.

Thanks for the part you play in making our work possible.

Ngā mihi nui o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou,


Pride on Show 3. YEP1 grad

We catch up with Licence to Work graduations in Gisborne and Lower Hutt. Read more here



Baby fish and worm tea4. SouthSci1

We’re netting baby flounder on the Tāmaki Estuary …  and talking worm tea at the Science Communicators Association annual conference.  Read more here



Summer talk5. TM1 Bucket with pohut

How to talk more to your babies and young children over summer – some tips from our parents and partners.

Read more here



6. Moana Whaanga1

A Tribute  

Moana Whaanga was an important contributor to COMET’s pioneering Manukau Family Literacy Programme.

Read more here 


In the media   7. Wanganui chronicle

6 November, 2017: Top communication researchers speak in Whanganui.  Wanganui Chronicle

6 November, 2017: Young participants find Licence to Work powerful. Gisborne Herald  (pdf)

December, 2017: Students graduate with work-readiness skills. BusinessPlus (pdf)  

Some summer reading

Predictions for jobs lost and gained with automation and AI – a McKinsey report here.

What does and doesn’t work in schools? Pointers in the 2017-18 Global Education Monitoring Report here.

Plus! All the Briefings to Incoming Ministers you can handle, here.

And before we go …  

The COMET Auckland office will re-open in 2018 on the 3rd of January.

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If you have a notice, event or job listing you would like to be featured in our next newsletter, please send it through to 

Pride on show

‘Tis the season for graduations and lots of emotion and pride have been on show at Licence to Work ceremonies around the North Island. We provide support, training and advice at cost for YEP in regions outside Auckland.

Activate Tairāwhiti

In Gisborne, 38 young participants and their friends and family celebrated completing Activate Tairāwhiti’s work-ready programme.  Gisborne mayor Meng Foon and special guest Jake Bailey spoke at the ceremony.

3. YEP2 Tairawhiti

The graduates included 11 young mothers from Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou’s TRONPnui Wahine Activate programme, several of whom have already moved into employment. Asia Apiata and Taryn Jonasen from Gisborne Girls’ High School won special awards for outstanding participation and achievement.

Activate Tairāwhiti chief executive Steve Breen says the emotions shown by graduates and family members shows how powerful Licence to Work can be.

COMET Auckland skills manager Shirley Johnson says the pride of recipients was evident.

“Pride in completion and achievement, and pride in knowing that new family histories were being carved out. It’s also great to see the Mayor of Gisborne make time to join YEP graduates. When all players of the skills ecosystem choose to invest in our youth we see great things beginning to happen.”

YEP: Licence to Work in Tairāwhiti will double in size in 2018 with the following organisations confirming their participation: Te Karaka Area School, Tolaga Bay Area School, Te Whare Whai Hua (the teen parent unit at Lytton High School), Tūranga Ararau and Wairoa College. They will join existing participants: Gisborne Girls’ High School, Gisborne Boy’s High School, Lytton High School, Ngata Memorial College, Campion College, TRONPnui and Matapuna Training Centre.

Read the Gisborne Herald story  and check out our Facebook graduation photo album here .

YOUth Inspire

3. YEP3 YOUth Inspire A dozen young people also received their certificates from the Licence to Work programme in Wainuiomata and Naenae. YOUth Inspire  congratulated the young recipients with this message: “We want you to take everything that you have experienced and learnt and use this to continue to grow, be positive, be confident and most of all be proud of your achievements.” The programme benefited from strong support from local employers who provided work experience.

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Baby fish and worm tea

Our first iwi-led SouthSci project trialling a flounder hatchery to restock the Manukau Harbour, now has live fish in the tank. Ngāti Pāoa and the Point England School members of the project went on a floundering mission to re-populate their tanks with baby fish for studying.

4. SouthSci2

The students have discovered that fish use up all the oxygen in water very quickly when there is either very little water or too many fish. This suffocation can make them die later on, even when they make it into the big tank. The problem was solved this time by using specially-adapted chilly bins with a battery operated oxygen pump, to transfer the flounder from the net in the harbour to the big research tank at school.

The students also collected an impressive number of crabs and other sand-dwelling invertebrates (animals with an external skeleton) to introduce into the big research tank. They’ll provide a bit of an ecosystem – and a tasty flounder snack!

The students were joined by David Cooper from Aquaculture Services who explained the importance of testing the salinity of the tank water before transferring the fish.

Now there are fish in the big tank, which is housed in a shipping container at the school, students and the wider project team will begin collecting data on environment and growth measures.

Laura from Curious Minds joined us on the day, so keep an eye out for a Flounder story on

Talking science and worm tea

Students from East Tāmaki School took centre stage to present their worm tea chemistry project at the annual Science Communicators Association of NZ conference in Auckland 4. SouthSci3earlier this month.  They described how the project looks at different kinds of waste that goes into their worm bins, and the effect on what comes out – the worm tea. They are testing the effect of different amounts of the worm tea on the school gardens.

Their presentation drew compliments from the audience of scientists and science communicators.

“Wow. Next stage is for the kids to test whether their worm tea can kill a nasty mite that lives in soil & kills livestock.” –  Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland.

“Best reason I’ve heard for the need to ensure consistency and rigour in science trials: ‘To make it fair’, from Room 1 at East Tamaki School reporting on their worm wee vs fertiliser research.” – Sarah Fraser, science communicator.

In a panel about the Participatory Science Platform, SouthSci manager Dr Sarah Morgan spoke of the impact it’s having in south Auckland. Scientists were typically seen as people who came to study them, she said, rather than as collaborators. SouthSci has helped to humanise scientists through the community-led projects.

You can see more about SouthSci and East Tāmaki School at SCANZ17 here

Applications open for 2018

SouthSci has been given the green light for another year, to support new regional projects and boost locals’ connections with science and technology. Funding applications are now open for South Auckland projects starting in 2018. Either a community group or their science partners can apply for funding and they can request up to $20,000 per project. Email for more information.

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Summer talk

Here are some ideas from our Talking Matters partners and parents for talking to your baby or young child over summer.

5. TM2 Outdoors poster

This poster has some ideas for Outdoors Talk thanks to the people from Great Potentials Foundation, Good Seed Trust and Māngere East Library.

Click here for the full size image.

If you want to know more, watch our video:  

5. TM4 Outdoors talk_bath post

And Cortez Ormsby from the Anglican Trust for Women and Children has this simple idea for staying cool and talking with your little ones during these scorching days.


Good Seed Trust has come up with a fabulous prompt for choosing exciting words to share with children.  It’s sparked a lot of interest since we first shared it on Talking Matters’ Facebook page. Since then the ECE teachers have added to the list and collected data on how frequently they use the words. “It’s led to some great discussions with the kids. Like, ‘It helps us think of ideas we wouldn’t have before’.”

5. TM3a Good Seed5. TM3b Good Seed

Click here and here for the full size images.

Tips for talking with your pēpi

Here are some tips from Talking Matters parents on how to encourage your baby to respond or take a ‘turn’ in the conversation:

  • Respond to the coos and noises they make. Say the words that the child might say – if they could. The more they hear them, the more likely they are to respond.
  • Around dinner time talk about the food. You could describe what you were eating, be thankful for who cooked it, ask questions. Use your facial expression to show baby you want them to take a turn.
  • When Dad leaves for work or arrives home, he could use comforting and consoling words. Have a bit of a routine for saying hello and bye. He could describe what he did during the day, and what he is going to do.
  • Reading time. Put on funny voices, the voices of the characters when reading. You can also read the story lots of times, slow down a bit and relate it to your own life. Just get that love of books going.
  • Use high energy words in the morning – with the expectation they will reply and get involved. Use soothing quiet words in the evening. It might be more about listening when you are winding down for bed. Animated in the morning, gentle at night.
  • Sing. It needs to be interesting, and for a little one to take their turn they need to hear that song quite a few times. To be familiar with it. You could use actions with your hands and pause to let them know it’s their turn.

And in other Talking Matters news ….

Go West, Young Interns!

Our interns Jenny Flemming and Phoebe McClure from Massey University have been showcasing Talking Matters in west Auckland – at The Fono’s community day at Hub West, and at sessions for parents and professionals at Literacy Waitakere and at West Harbour Playcentre’s SPACE session. 5. TM5 interns Jenny Flemming, Phoebe McClure

There was a lot of interest in bilingualism and how speaking more than one language is very beneficial for brain development. The analogy that adult talk is food for a child’s brain got a good response from parents, with comments like – “So two languages mean a big brain?”, and “I want my children to have big, big brains – need to talk more”.

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A Tribute to Moana Whaanga

Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Hinemoa Manley Whaanga

28 October 1935 – 15 November 2017

Moana Whaanga came to COMET (City of Manukau Education Trust) in 2003, late in her career. She was part of the team that developed a model for inter-generational family learning. Underpinning her eight years of work in the pioneering Manukau Family Literacy Programme were her staunch Christian principles, Māori values, and her b6. Moana Whaanga2 grouproad and deep experience of education in high-need communities.  She engaged with her Māori and Pasifika students and whānau with empathy and understanding of their social, emotional, and economic challenges; nurturing them and helping them succeed in learning.

The programme gained international attention for its holistic, collaborative approach and outstanding, measurable results. Moana regarded this work as the high point of her career as an educator.  The photo shows Moana, far right, in 2012 with three parents of the family literacy programme in partnership with Bairds Mainfreight Primary School, who have gone on to graduate with a degree.  You can see some of Moana’s work on this video from 2009.

Being the centre of attention was never Moana’s driving force.  As Sir Barry Curtis often reminded us, she was the first Māori Miss New Zealand.  Her notable achievement was accidental.  Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Hinemoa lived up to her Te Arawa name-sake.  An accomplished swimmer, she was also selected to represent her country at the Commonwealth Games. The beauty pageant was not a selfie, it was a means to an end, fulfilling a community obligation to be a fundraiser: with a twist that was surprising to her.  Over the next sixty years it was a platform for her mana as a mother, a teacher, and an educational leader.

Moana’s beauty was more than skin-deep.  Me te wai korari*, with graciousness and a generosity of spirit, Moana put others first.  She was a superb team member.  Our loss is a community’s loss too.  Arohanui, Moana.

By Bernardine Vester (former COMET ceo) and Robin Houlker (former MFLP regional coordinator)

* sweet as the honey of the flax flower

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AFLPP Network: What really changes our financial behaviour?

photo-1457805552964-d90a8f9a578fKia Ora and thanks to everyone who came along to the fascinating conversation about what really works when supporting individuals, families and communities to change their financial behaviours. Scan the notes for some information about meetings that are coming up.

Rebecca Ruwhia- Collins, Coordinator G-Fit and smoking cessation behaviour change specialist

Behaviour Change: what can we do to strengthen the chances?
Key points from the AFLPP session March 11, 2016

Rebecca applied public health-related behaviour change thinking and strategies to the financial wellness sector in her presentation.

Changing behaviour means managing the push/pull factors relating to increasing capability, increasing (or decreasing) the Opportunity and increasing the right kind of motivation for the desired behaviours.

Key points included:

  • Build in support and accountability to a group / buddy / family  members –“you are not alone”
  • Build self-regulation into the design: have people identify their own strategies for behaving differently – that helps them take responsibility and builds in that accountability e.g. “How could you can avoid going out to the shop truck when it arrives?” What do you want to do differently?” What would be a first step to get where you want to go?

Increase people’s readiness to act in the first session by asking them about the behaviour that brought them into the room, one specific behaviour they want to change. Talk about getting into the right space, about having a ‘ready head’

Have everyone set a start time for taking action

Incorporate the TOP 5  behaviour change strategies:

build rapport; describe what a budget is (and can do for you in language that the group can relate to); help participants set a start date; track progress (via money diaries, payments made in a week etc); secure their commitment to reduce debt –through the support and self-regulation approaches above.

Nicola Gamble, Behavioural insights Manager, Commission for Financial Capability

Nicola talked about the behaviour change frameworks the commission is using presentation here.

Behaviour change is about starting a new behaviour, stopping a behaviour that harms, preventing taking up something harmful and changing a behaviour someone already has.
The EAST framework was a highlight – make behaviour change strategies Easy, Accessible, Social and Timely.

Tips that resonated:

build in support and peer to peer recommendations

Tales from the Tent – starting conversations with the public, using a starter question (and a tent!)

Showcase success – where other  people who have adopted the desired behaviour

Key life events are learning moments –tailor our financial literacy approaches to big events like weddings, the birth of children, going flatting

Visualise the desired behaviour – so people know where they are going!