Education graduate’s research wins award

A PhD graduate from Victoria’s Faculty of Education, Maraea Hunia, has won the inaugural Lyn Foote Award from the New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) for her research on Māori language socialisation and acquisition by bilingual children.

Maraea Hunia smiles at the camera with a young girl
Maraea Hunia has won the the inaugural Lyn Foote Award from the New Zealand Association for Research in Education.

The Lyn Foote Award for Student Research in Early Childhood is given to a current NZARE member who has completed a high-quality Master’s or doctoral thesis on a topic relevant to early childhood education and care.

Maraea was presented with the award at the Early Childhood Education Special Interest Group’s meeting in Wellington recently.

Maraea says: “I am deeply honoured to receive an award commemorating Lyn Foote, whose lifetime of passion, dedication and hard work provisioned the storehouse of knowledge that many working within the field of early years draw from.

“Her work also laid critical pathways for relationships of encounter, which my research also explored. My study, on Māori language socialisation and acquisition, is a small contribution which I hope will help our nation's heritage language to flourish.”

Professor Carmen Dalli and Dr Winifred Bauer, who supervised Maraea’s thesis, were delighted by the award.

“Maraea’s thesis is the first in-depth study of the bilingual acquisition of Māori and English from birth, primarily in the home but also later in kōhanga reo. Her detailed case study integrated methods from socio-cultural research, anthropology, and descriptive linguistics to provide a very rich analysis of the factors that led to bilingual success in both environments,” says Dr Bauer.

“Maraea’s findings about the development of the linguistic structures of te reo Māori show clearly that the pattern of acquisition is very different from the pattern observed in European languages,” added Dr Bauer. “This not only breaks new ground in our understanding of the development of Māori language competence, but it also makes an important contribution to international understanding of universals in child language acquisition.

“The findings of Maraea’s thesis are important in the field of early childhood studies. They demonstrate the importance for Māori revitalisation of speaking Māori not only to the child but to others around the child. This is an important message for early childhood centres aiming to support the growth of bilingualism,” says Professor Dalli.

“Maraea’s findings also have implications for immigrant families in New Zealand who wish to maintain their heritage languages. They show the importance of the entire community surrounding the child in supporting the acquisition of both culture and language.”