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Source: Massey University

From left: Back row:De Jennifer Roberts (Lecturer), Camille Manning (Lecturer), Sarah-Anne McKenzie, Stevee-Jai Kelly and Kimberley Wood. Front row: Moana Kaire, Tawhio Walford, Tj Winikerei-Walker and Courtney Jones.

Seven Māori nursing students recently attended the 2021 Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference in Wellington, and say it was inspiring and empowering.

Each year the School of Nursing selects students to go to the conference. The theme this year was ‘Heeding the Call of the Maunga’.

Moana Kaire, Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi, says being exposed to a programme facilitated in a Māori construct with a collective of Māori tauira (students) and nurses, “felt like home”.

“It enabled conversations on and around Māori health from a Māori perspective. It was great to be able to compare views and discuss experiences within the healthcare sector, while forming connections, effectively establishing another whānau – a whānau of nurses or nurses in the making.”

The 35-year-old says her favourite speaker was Dr Rawiri Taonui, Te Hikutū and Ngāti Korokoro, Te Kapotai and Ngāti Paeahi, Ngāti Rora, Ngāti Whēru, Ngāti Te Taonui, New Zealand’s first Professor of Indigenous Studies.

“He discussed Māori health and New Zealand’s response both historically and currently in the face of a pandemic. Discussing how nurses can respond to support their whānau and tangata whenua. His presentation also discussed his views on what the COVID-19 vaccination roll out should or could be to support Māori equity, drawing on other international vaccination roll out plans.”

Moana was interested to hear more about Rongoā (traditional Māori medicine) while at the conference.

“My grandfather was skilled in Rongoā, but it is something I have minimal experience in practicing in my own life. There were representatives of Rongoā and taonga pūoro [traditional Māori musical instruments] that discussed and demonstrated their mahi. It gave me a greater understanding of the practices and therapies out there, how they work and their benefit in supporting Māori.”

Second year Bachelor of Nursing student Tawhio Walford, Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Māhaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Pū, says it was nice to know she wasn’t alone in her thoughts and feelings about being a Māori nurse.

“With there being only one other Māori student in my cohort and having come across not one Māori nurse on my placements, I felt there wasn’t a strong presence of Māori within the field and that the passion I felt, to better conditions and rights for Māori, was only a passion of my own.

“I met so many wonderful, passionate people who all have the same vision as I do and it was so empowering to see, hear and feel. It was just amazing to be immersed in Te Ao Māori for the weekend and left me feeling inspired and ready to create change.”

The 20-year-old says the opportunity to attend was really important to her. “I knew it was going to be a safe space for me and a place of learning and inspiration, where I could speak my truth and be completely comfortable in my ‘Māori-ness.’”

Her favourite speaker was Māori musician and composer Horomona Horo. “Horomona was so captivating. He performed and spoke so eloquently and it was extremely moving to hear about his journey from homelessness to being fully immersed in Te Ao Māori and pathing the way for rangatahi [youth].”

Stevee-Jai Kelly, Te Āti Awa, says it was an amazing experience.

“It was so memorable. All of the speakers held such mana, but two stood out to me – Donna Awatere and Hinewirangi Morgan. Both extraordinary wahine who were passionate about Māori health and had a sharp tongue to boot. All and all it was an amazing experience that helped me feel more connected to my fellow Māori nurses and I’m so grateful for the experience.”

The 20-year-old who was born and raised in Taranaki, says her passion for Māori health started at a very young age.

“In my first few years of nursing school I saw Māori inequities in a new light. My interests in Māori health really flourished in first year and I wanted to branch out more in my second year, however COVID-19 hit and made it difficult. Tied in with a lack of resources, I was kind of left alone on my journey to being a kaupapa Māori nurse.

“I didn’t know how to properly incorporate my culture into my practice nor did I have many peers to lean on for support, or share it with. I hadn’t realised how much I wanted to see more Māori tauira until turning up at the conference and seeing so many rangatahi willing to make a change in our health care sector.”

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