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Source: NorthTec

Tai Tokerau tertiary education provider NorthTec are working with support from the Ministry of Health to roll out a Kaupapa Māori wellbeing programme called Kahikatea which is underpinned by the principles of Sir Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model.

The programme is available to all NorthTec students and is currently being lead-out by two Te Ara Poutama- Student Support Kaimahi- Whaea Meri Nathan, (Kaitiaki Hauora- Wellbeing Practitioner) and Matua Max Thompson, Kai Arahi Māori- Wellbeing Cultural Advisor).

The Whare Tapa Whā model focuses on four dimensions of health: tinana (physical), hinengaro (mental and emotional), whānau (family and social), and wairua (spiritual). The model advises that should one of the four dimensions be missing a person may become ‘unbalanced’ and subsequently unwell.

“What makes the model of care different from others, is that we support the wairua component,” says Whaea Meri Nathan. “Wairua is not out at the forefront of other tertiary providers model of care, that I’ve heard about. Although there are always undertones and most Māori know what we’re talking about when we raise just that word, there’s never a heavy focus on it.”

Kahikatea had a ‘soft launch’ on February 14th, 2022.  With Whaea Meri and Matua Max, leading out with whanaungatanga- connecting and building rapport with ākonga, tutors and communities across our NorthTec campuses.

“Our approach is respectful, gentle and organic, being in the right place and at the right time,” advises Matua Max Thompson.  “We are here to listen to ākonga experiences with wairuatanga and to awhi (support/advise) where we can”.

Along with the two Kaimahi, we will eventually welcome six ākonga, as Ākonga Toa (Learner wellbeing champions). Ākonga toa are current learners (tuakana) and their experience in the realm of wairuatanga – religions, spiritual beliefs, and faiths, is diverse. Each has a unique way of connecting with their peers, whether it be over a cup of tea, at wananga, zooms, group prayer meetings or in communities.

“We want to give ākonga the opportunity to connect in a way that works for them,” says Huria Bruce-Iri, NorthTec’s Student Services Manager and co-developer of the Kahikatea model with Tapuhi (Nurse)- Whaea Jann Leaming. “The wairua, tohunga or Matakite dimensions of our wellbeing, is difficult to talk about, especially when experiencing a ‘presence ‘, a chill up your spine or needing a karakia (prayer). We want ākonga to know that they can also be supported by an Ākonga Toa.”

Kahikatea compliments Whaea Meri and Matua Max’s current roles. They are already in roles where ākonga are accessing them for awhi (support) and manaakitanga (guidance). Now ākonga can also discuss wairuatanga experiences, stories, and concerns.

“We’ve had some ākonga come in and they are just heavy with their struggles,” Whaea Meri says. “The stress of assignments, covid, and social obligations, along with physical health problems, really effects their wairua in a way they can’t always express to other people. They need to be seen and heard and have someone validate that and understand what they are going through. It’s so amazing to see them leave [my office] so much lighter.”

Whaea Meri and Matua Max are based in Te Whare Manaaki- A Block, Raumanga campus.  Once a month they visit the Mid North and Far North Campuses. While visiting the regions, they are liaising with local hapu and iwi to initiate more practitioners and Ākonga Toa into the program, providing wrap around support across the regions.