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Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō – building Māori leadership in physiotherapy

Last year, 2018, marked the first year the Physiotherapy Board has offered scholarships to the Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō Māori leadership programme. The aim is to build Māori leadership in Physiotherapy to help reduce the significant gap between health outcomes for Māori and non-Māori.

Jessica Penney and Melissa Reid are the first physiotherapists to complete the four-month marae-based programme and both have found the experience incredibly rewarding.

For Melissa the course brought the unexpected. “I was very much like, ‘wow what have I got myself into?’ I’d never stayed on a marae before or been so immersed in such strong Māori culture. The topics challenged me to think differently about life. It was a different and unique experience.”

Melissa Reid

That’s something Jessica experienced too. “I felt like this course spoke to me a lot more than a western leadership course. That said I was a bit nervous and apprehensive because I didn’t know if I was going to be ‘Māori enough’ to be a part of it, but that soon washed away. The aroha and the wrath and support you get in that room is astounding.”

The amount of work required for the course is significant says Melissa. “It’s the Thursday and Friday of each month including staying on the marae overnight – it’s a real commitment. But it’s also incredibly valuable – we had a variety of different speakers come to talk to us about a huge range of topics around governance and leadership that really got me thinking.

“We also had a strong focus on examining our values and really thinking about where we came from; as a last project Jessica and I had to put together a presentation on supervision of a Māori cultural group within physiotherapy.

“It really made me think hard about my outlook and my appreciation of the inequalities in our healthcare system and the lower socioeconomic and health outcomes we face as a people.
“But also how we don’t fix it by just trying to fit Māori into western medical practice. We can change our services to make them more accessible to Māori.”

Jessica agrees, “Understanding history, and history’s role in the health inequities of today and then how we can change that and how we can be accountable for change within these spaces and places. I felt like we were all in the same waka for change. The system needs to be easier to access.”

Getting that done is going to mean increased Māori leadership in the health system – something that the Board is committed to by supporting these scholarships.

Asked what people who want to apply for the scholarship should know about Ngā Manukura o Āpōpō, Melissa doesn’t hesitate. “It’s just a unique opportunity that you can’t turn down.”