Growing up in a home where a love of languages – English and te reo Māori – was central has inspired Hana Tuwhare in her study and work.
With the surname Tuwhare, it is no surprise she is continuing her family's legacy. The granddaughter of distinguished New Zealand poet, the late Hone Tuwhare, she works as a speech- language therapist – a role she took on after graduating with an honours degree from Massey University.
"I grew up in an environment where language and communication were a normal part of our world," she says. "Hone Tuwhare, my grandfather on my Dad's side, had a real love of language. My Dad is a writer and I have a niece who is doing well with spoken poetry."
"My mum suggested speech-language therapy because her father had a stutter and she was aware of how communication problems can affect a person's life."
So, Tuwhare enrolled for the four-year Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy programme at Massey and received a Ministry of Education scholarship to support her study. In her final year she completed an honours' research project focussing on whanaungatanga (relationship building), a crucial aspect of working alongside Māori as speech-language therapists.
"The Massey degree opened a lot of unexpected doors for me and I believe it will open more in the future," she says. "When I completed my studies, I spent one year in a full immersion, te reo Māori school only speaking te reo. It was an incredible year of self-discovery and immersion into the Māori world."
Today she works in her "dream job" as a community activator for Auckland-based Talking Matters, a kaupapa that, "gets everyone talking with babies and young tamariki (children) under the age of three".
"Language, culture and identity are inextricably linked and creating rich oral language environments in the first 1000 days of life helps tamariki thrive as learners, thinkers and readers," she says.
"Early oral language is foundational for learning, literacy, and reading as well as our socio-emotional development. In fact, the first 1000 days plays a more significant role in our life outcomes than we had previously thought."
Tuwhare says she believes oral language has the power to help people tell stories and connect not only with others, but their ancestors, and is one of the reasons the revitalisation of te reo is her real love.
Dr Elizabeth Doell, a senior lecturer and programme lead at the Institute of Education at Massey, says there is a shortage of speech-language therapists the world over.
"In New Zealand there are approximately 18 speech-language therapists for every 100,000 people which is quite low compared to other countries," she says. "For example, at any one time one per cent of the population (about 50,000) has a stutter and depending on the age of the person, therapists can help with therapy or strategies."
Doell says there is also an increase in the number of people with feeding and swallowing problems, with up to a third of older people in residential care needing help with eating. Speech-language therapists provide specialist support in this area because of their extensive knowledge about the structures and functions of the head and neck involved in swallowing.
"The demand for speech-language therapists is steady," she says. "Our programme is not just for experienced people as school leavers are welcome with open arms. It is a profession that will be of interest to people who want to support individuals with communication difficulties – and their families/whānau and communities.
"People might be attracted to the programme because it combines interests in health, science, education and psychology."
The Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy (with Honours) can be studied full time over four years but also has part time and distance options. Doell says graduates work across a range of settings including early learning services, schools, hospitals, rest homes, and private practice.
She says they usually work as part of a team with other education and health professionals such as teachers, doctors, occupational therapists, psychologists and dietitians.
Massey's Auckland campus also provides services for children and adults with communication and feeding and swallowing disorders through its Speech and Language Therapy Campus Clinic where student clinicians assess and work with clients under the supervision of highly qualified and experienced clinical staff.
Watch the video, produced by the Ministry of Education:
Applications for the 2021 Bachelor of Speech and Language Therapy (Honours) close on February 5. For more information visit: www.massey.ac.nz/slthons