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Future Māori And Pasifika Midwifery Workforce Receives $6m Boost

The launch of a joint project between Aotearoa’s midwifery education providers and the Ministry of Health signals the beginning of a new chapter in addressing midwifery workforce inequities.

The Ministry has pledged to provide $6m in funding over the next four years, for the specific purpose of increasing recruitment and retention of Māori and Pasifika undergraduate midwifery students.

New Zealand College of Midwives President, Nicole Pihema, (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa), says the initiative is an acknowledgement of the obvious disparities that exist within Aotearoa’s midwifery workforce; disparities which mirror the inequities found in the communities midwives serve.

“Currently, just 9.83% of Aotearoa’s midwifery workforce identify as Māori, with Pasifika midwives accounting for only 2.75%. These figures provide a stark contrast when compared with our most recent birthing data, which shows 25% of Aotearoa’s birthing population in 2018 identified as Māori, and 10% as Pasifika. The disparities are a direct result of historical institutional racism”, she says.

“Achieving more equitable health outcomes for our Māori and Pasifika communities starts with addressing the gaps in our workforce. I have every confidence that as our workforce shifts to more accurately reflect the communities we serve, the natural consequence of this will be increased wellbeing and improved perinatal outcomes for whānau nationwide.”

Aotearoa’s maternity system is based on a partnership model and underpinned by cultural safety; the latter of which becomes more challenging to uphold when the workforce itself is lacking in diversity. Pihema says the new funding will ensure wāhine of Māori and Pasifika descent have an increased chance of being cared for by a midwife they can identify with.

“Our maternity system is women-centred, but gaps in our workforce have prevented us from being able to meet the needs of the women we know are the most at-risk of suffering the consequences of institutional racism and unconscious bias. The College commends the Ministry on recognising this and investing in the profession that is best placed to help whānau and new pēpī get off to the best start possible.”

AUT University will hold the contract with the Ministry, and will have memoranda of understanding with the other four midwifery education providers: Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University, Ara Institute of Canterbury (Ara) and Otago Polytechnic.

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