Diana Kopua grew up in the Pa at Takapuwāhia marae where as she recalls, one half of the street were Mormons and the other half of the street were Rastafarian.
“Now that’s an absolute generalisation, but that was my perspective as a child, when I think about what that’s meant for me, I think of my family and that we didn’t follow a religion” she says.
Growing up in Porirua, Diana wanted to be a Physiotherapist because she loved mirimiri (the practise of healing massage) Otago University was on the cards but was told she needed more qualifications so she set about building a career in the health sector and decided to study nursing at the nearby Polytechnic.
“As soon as I graduated I was introduced to mental health [sector] and I became the first community nurse in Māori mental health in Porirua… I utilised Māori approaches…Paraire Huata and Mason Durie were developing amazing models, [but] all the while having colleagues looking at me saying you shouldn’t be in this position, I knew there was resistance but I pushed ahead.” she says.
Diana says she followed both Huata and Duries work in Māori health and when she started her career in Maori mental health she was inspired by a colleague who was proficient in their own Mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge systems). This resonated with Diana who grew up in a household without religious practices. It wasn’t until she studied the Māori language at Whitireia Polytechnic where the stories were told in te reo Māori that it struck a chord.
“I hadn’t heard some of them [the stories] before…I swear I levitated by that experience because as students of Te reo, we had to conceptualise the context of the purakau and its relevance in our world, and that was phenomenal”. she says
Diana’s work as nurse in the Porirua community eventually lead to a career as a Psychiatrist but four years ago she and her husband decided to move back to the East Coast.
In the bustling metropolis of Gisborne Te Kuwatawata Hauora Tairawhiti is the office space were Diana and Mark carry out their work. Artwork is displayed on the walls that match the theme of the work of Mahi a Atua that draw on stories and narratives that stories to help Māori families navigate mental wellbeing.
Mahi a Atua is a Māori based approach to mental health grounded in Matauranga Māori, Dr Diana Kopua provides an insight into the work and research behind, Mahi a Atua.