The littlies at two Whangarei childcare centres have been immersed in one particularly big word during te wiki o te reo Maori - the word whanaungatanga, which means unity and forging relationships.

Whanaungatanga - or coming together - is what Whangarei Child Care Centre in Porowini Ave shared with its bi-lingual neighbour down the road, Mokopuna ki Tarewa Early Childhood Education Centre, at a celebration yesterday to mark two important annual events. One was Matariki now being finished and the Maori New Year under way, and the other was Maori Language Week (Te Wiki o te Reo Maori).

Whangarei Child Care Centre children and staff have been learning about Matariki, their colourful handmade decorations and information panels telling the story of the movement of the seasons, the stars and the earth. Teacher Manu Toeke said the Matariki period had also provided a chance for staff and visitors to share myths, legends and lore with the children. About half the 47 children attending the centre are Maori.

Adopting the theme of whanaungatanga for Maori Language Week further offered the chance to forge closer ties with the wider community, including the te reo and Maoritanga -focused Mokopuna centre, Ms Toeke said.


"We are more mainstream here so a lot of our tamariki don't experience the same emphasis," she said.

As well as its focus on community integration and links, the centre's celebrations emphasise a "sense of place and belonging" in Whangarei, Ms Toeke said. "The umbrella to all of this has been Matariki, but Matariki is over and we're now in te wiki o te reo Maori, and this is a celebration of that move."