A Rotorua-based polytechnic is trying to turn around the region's poor health outcomes by offering the first health science diploma with a Māori worldview.
Sixty rangatahi Māori from whare kura showed up at Tangatarua Marae to learn more about the Toi Ohomai Māori Health Diploma, and hear from Māori health professionals from pharmacists to midwives.
There are already 28 students doing two courses at the secondary school level, Tikanga Hauora at Level 2 and Oranga Tangata at Level 3, which sets students up and gives them priority to enter the diploma level course;
These courses are offered in both te reo Māori and bilingually, which the manager of the Toi Ohomai health programme, Maria Ngawati, said was a first for tertiary education.
Ms Ngawati said they were trying to bridge a gap where Māori medium education tended to stop at the tertiary level except if people wanted to study te reo.
"As soon as our kids exit whare kura or exit our Kura-a-Iwi they're expected to turn their whole worlds around into a te ao Pākehā perspective.
"So when you're looking at reasons why our kids drop out in first year at University and Polytech, that's why [it's] because the philosophy they've been learning in their whole life is completely different."
The lack of Māori staff in Rotorua was at a "crisis level", Ms Ngawati said.
Despite increases in the numbers of Māori nurses and doctors, there was an absence of Māori in the over 50 other health career pathways, like pharmacology, physiotherapy, counselling and social work.
The course would help increase the number of culturally competent healthcare workers that the industry desperately needed to turn around "dire" Māori health outcomes, Ms Ngawati said.
Pou Manukura Kia Ora Hauora Midland Programme Facilitator, Lianne Kohere, said the course would prevent rangatahi Māori having to face the "huge financial cost" of moving to and living in Auckland and Dunedin to study health sciences.
"Our whānau won't have to leave home - they can do their first couple of years here at Toi Ohomai, then bridge into mainstream and then eventually come back to the DHB's to do their clinical placements - so the costs alone won't be as high [and] still lots of whānau support to help manaaki them through that tertiary space," she said.
Seventeen-year-old Anahema Morrison from Te Kura o te Koutu is completing the Tikanga Hauora course, which he says has been really useful to help him prepare for the Diploma next year.
He had always had a passion for health and well-being, and a desire to give back, so he was grateful to be one of the first students involved.
"I can see myself working as a dentist in a local area just giving back to the community and our Māori culture," he said
"Some of the raru (problems) I see is just trying to get our young Māori out there ... and really trying to get them to change their minds and go towards a hauora lifestyle."
He thought it was important to have Māori doctors as it wasn't as easy for Māori to open up to non-Māori doctors.