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Rongoā Māori scholars to study traditional health in India

A multi-disciplinary team of senior scholars, practitioners and members of the community will undertake a six-week indigenous health and entrepreneurship scholarship programme in India, supported by the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia.

Based in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, Southern India, the inaugural scholarship programme will focus on Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of science, health and medicine. It aims to advance scholarship and research in Māori and indigenous health, wellbeing and knowledge, and give rise to insights that will support the resurgence of Rongoā Māori in New Zealand.

The Rongoā Māori and Ayurveda scholarship programme is a collaboration between indigenous tertiary institution Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, the Giles Brooker Academy, the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy Training Academy, and the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia programme.

Associate Professor Mera Penehira leads the Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi international indigenous doctoral programme. She said scholarships have been awarded to 10 senior students, graduates, researchers, faculty members and Rongoā Māori practitioners representing hapū, iwi and community networks across Aotearoa.

“Each recipient has a connection to Māori or indigenous wellbeing and knowledge. Our unique interest in this field as a Whare Wānanga – and what we bring uniquely to the Prime Minister’s programme – is exploring the synergies between mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) and other fields of indigenous knowledge, in this instance Ayurvedic medicine,” said Dr Penehira.

“As an institution, we are interested in the potential for cultural and educational collaboration and exchange, particularly in the area of indigenous approaches to cultural, physical and emotional wellbeing.

“There is also significant opportunity for wider collaboration with India in social, economic and business research and development, including supporting Māori business success internationally and the sustainable growth of international education, trade and tourism.”

Dr Penehira, who teaches Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi doctoral programmes in Hawai’i and Washington State in the United States, said this international scholarship programme would contribute to understandings of contemporary Rongoā Māori and indigenous healing practices and approaches to wellbeing.

“The group has been carefully selected from academic and applied practitioner backgrounds, and those who are committed to improving Māori health and wellbeing,” said Dr Penehira.

“This experience will arm them with more tools and knowledge about how to integrate traditional practice in contemporary health interventions. They’re going to have an amazing cultural and educational experience, and gain knowledge and insights that could have a significant impact on their communities.”

Dr Penehira said the programme would also strengthen cultural understanding and build international networks.

“As an indigenous institution, we’re interested in building our research portfolio. This programme has the potential to establish a collaborative research base that we would be happy to support for future indigenous knowledge and business-oriented outcomes.”

The programme runs from the end of October to December.

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