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Wintec Celebrates 30 Years Of Ground-breaking Māori Nursing Programme This International Nurses Day

This International Nurses Day, Wintec | Te Pūkenga will be celebrating a major milestone for its Tihei Mauri Ora Māori nursing programme, which has been improving Māori health outcomes in the community for 30 years.

On Friday 12 May, founders of this ground-breaking programme, past students and others who have been instrumental in the programme’s journey are coming together to celebrate the past, and look to the future for Māori nursing in Aotearoa.

Since 1993, Wintec ākonga (students) who identify as Māori, and more recently Pacific, have had the option to complete their nursing programme within the Tihei Mauri Ora kaupapa (stream). This unique programme has provided students with an increased focus on Māori health, customs, and protocols, as well as additional support through a manaaki model of pastoral care, encouraging ākonga to work together (mahi tahi) with their academic whānau (whanaungatanga) to achieve excellence in nursing practice in a way that is representative of Māori culture.

Jan Liddell, Wintec Academic Staff member who has been part of the Tihei Mauri Ora programme’s journey for 21 years, recounts the history of Tihei Mauri Ora. She acknowledges the mana of those who pioneered the programme. They were, “Becky Fox and Rewi Panapa, who was a Māori nursing tutor at the then named Waikato Polytechnic, had a dream to establish a programme that would align to and meet the needs of Māori, increasing the Māori nursing workforce and addressing the poor health and wellbeing statistics of Māori at the time. The pair were driven by a need to protect and legitimise mātauranga Māori within the professional nursing context.

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“In a time of political turbulence for Māori, they bravely worked to bring their dream to a reality. Becky travelled around the motu, approaching nursing schools to see if they would be prepared to collaborate to establish a unique new programme.”

Eventually, it was a conversation back home in the Waikato with the late Dr Hare Puke, Kaumatua for the Waikato Polytechnic, that provided the breakthrough they needed. Dr Puke saw Becky and Rewi’s vision, and consulted with Tainui iwi, who eventually consented to the establishment of the then unnamed programme. Dr Puke went on to gift the programme a name, Tihei Mauri Ora | The Breath of Life.

Dr Rose McEldowney head of the nursing school at the time also supported the kaupapa, giving space for the programme’s development and implementation.

However, Jan points out there were still many hurdles to get past, “not everyone supported the kaupapa in its early years, with calls of separatism. Some staff left because of it, but the programme went from strength to strength, with many of its graduates going on to hold key positions of influence in the sector over the years”.

Jodi Fata, Wintec | Te Pūkenga Director for the Centre for Health and Social Practice says, “I am incredibly proud of the legacy that the Tihei Mauri Ora programme has created, with 30 years of graduates playing a big part in improving health outcomes for Māori, and the kaupapa now providing the building blocks to pave the future for Māori nursing in Aotearoa, through the Te Pūkenga Bachelor of Nursing Māori programme.”

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