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Strength Together

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – it means strength does not come from the individual but also from others – collaboration can bring the best results”.

It’s a credo that marks out Sandra Kettle’s style as a physiotherapy Kaitiaki (a guardian), with much of her work being focused on building a community of Māori physiotherapists to develop new talent and grow representation in the profession.

Sandra became a physiotherapist after her two boys were old enough for her to study and her family and vocation came together in her final year.  “My youngest son had hand therapy while I was in my final year at University, and they agreed to my doing my final clinical at Hands On Rehabilitation, and from there they offered me a job.”

It was while she was studying that her strong interest in Māori health was sparked. “While I was at University I studied Māori papers as part of my degree and learnt about health disparities and the appalling statistics for Māori. I joined Tae Ora Tinana as a student, and then expressed an interest in joining as a Kaitiaki once I had completed my Post-Graduate Hand Rehabilitation papers.

“Māori are statistically under-represented in all medical fields along with physiotherapy.  This impacts the patient/client who is then less likely to take up medical services if they feel that their culture is not represented.  We need to identify Māori talent earlier, and nurture and support these young people into physiotherapy.”

And with the workforce statistics showing there is still an under-representation of physiotherapists who identify as Māori – just 4.5 percent as compared to 15.4 percent of population as a whole – the role of Tae Ora Tinana is critical.

“From a Tae Ora Tinana perspective, we act as mentors to those wanting to study Physiotherapy, we provide Hui for them while they are studying to meet and support each other, then as workplace mentors once Māori Physiotherapists graduate.  We should be role models.

“We need to identify Māori talent earlier, and nurture and support these young people into successful physiotherapy practise.  Tae Ora Tinana strives to champion Te Ao Māori and the unique perspectives Māori bring to our mahi.  Developing strategic communication with Māori Physiotherapists in Aotearoa will improve our ability to support them.”

So what advice does Sandra have for Māori who are looking to become physiotherapists? “Join PNZ and Tae Ora Tinana – both Otago and AUT Universities have excellent culturally-specific support for Māori students.   Our strength lies in our coming together to support each other.”