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Dr Diana Kopua Awarded Top Māori Doctor Award 2020

Dr Diana Kopua

Psychiatrist Dr Diana Kopua (Ngati Porou) MBChB, FRANZCP has been awarded the prestigious Dr Maarire Goodall award 2020 for her on-going contribution to Māori Health.

Presented by Te ORA, the Māori Medical Practitioners Association, the annual Dr Maarire Goodall Award aims to support and celebrate the contributions of Māori health professionals working at the very highest levels. Established in 1997 Dr Goodall sought to celebrate the life-long careers of Māori medical professionals.

“Dr Di Kopua is a great example of the ‘doctor-scientist and social justice champion’ that Maarire Goodall embodied,” says Professor David Tipene-Leach, Chair of Te ORA.

Dr Kopua’s early years were spent in Takupuwahia and Titahi Bay. An avid softball player, composer and musician, she raised four children, studied and worked in Māori mental health as a community psychiatric nurse in Porirua. At the age of 31, Kopua pursued further training through a medical degree at Otago University and then went on to specialise in Psychiatry. Over her time working with whānau Māori, Kopua developed a system of treatment for people in mental health distress called Mahi a Atua using creation story pūrākau as an engagement and retention tool while a multi-disciplinary Māori team helped whānau back to health.

“Maori creation and custom stories are our touchstone in our approach, the foundation from which we question, discuss and debate ideas about existence, knowledge, values, mind and language,” says Kopua.

Kopua returned to Gisborne and took up the Head of Psychiatry at Tairāwhiti DHB and implemented this in the Te Kūwatawata single point of entry to mental health services. But creating change has not been easy and along with many diverse organisations, Dr Kopua is currently working as consultant Psychiatrist with Hauraki PHO and the wider Waikato-Hauraki Whanau pai collective.

“Challenging the status quo does not always find favour, challenging medical traditions does not make new friends in the world. Di Kopua has taken all this on and has pursued the embedding of this mātauranga Māori format into the engagement and retention of distressed whānau into aa empowering and dynamic clinical relationship. We at Te ORA are proud to have her as our Maarire Goodall winner for 2020,” notes Tipene-Leach.

Riana Manuel - Manukura Hauora (CEO) of Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, says of Kopua,“Together we are reconceptualising the delivery of mental health services in the greater Waikato region through the development and nurturing of Mahi a Atua within the communities. Dr Diana Kopua has been a pivotal part, not only in our collective and collaborative efforts to create change, but here in Hauraki she has been a lead change-maker during some of our most trying times as a country. Dr Di’s brand of pono and tika leave no room for complacency or excuses, she supports at all times but make no mistake she will challenge institutional racism and advocates for the people every time. This is the kind of leadership we need as Māori, to help us return to that knowledge that is long forgotten but ever relevant.”

“Since introducing Mahi a Atua into our organisation we have seen a massive rise in the number of Māori seeking help and support and that speaks to an equity-based approach that our people can recognise themselves in. Ensuring they receive better, sooner and closer to home care is what Mahi a Atua seeks to do, in our language and through our pūrakau being described by not only our clinicians but also by our creatives, our whānau ora workers and our wider community,” she adds.

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