Kaupapa Māori provider facing unprecedented demand with lack of full-time staff

5:33 pm on 4 August 2022

Te Waka Whaiora is a mental health and addiction service that works the streets of Porirua, building relationships and resilience with whānau in a by-Māori, for Māori way.

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It has nurses and clinicians, but also rangatahi and kaumātua who connect with whānau when times are tough, well before any clinical intervention.

With the past two years of a pandemic, soaring cost of living and job uncertainty, its services are needed more than ever.

"The demand out there is huge," said Charley Koteka, one of the trust's kaimahi. "It's a matter of getting the kupu out there, getting the pānui out there, the tono."

Another kaimahi, Stan Hune, said demand was unprecedented. So much so the trust did not have enough to help everybody who needed it.

"We've unfortunately had to cap due to not having the capacity. There's not enough hours in the day, not enough days in the week."

The interest from the Porirua community was particularly because of its taha Māori approach, which involves early intervention for whānau who were having trouble, or had fallen into addiction, Hune said.

Its goal is to help whānau before their problems become a clinical - or criminal - issue, providing support through a kaupapa Māori lens, and building their sense of self.

Hune said it was about utilising te ao Māori to solve issues that could often be caused by a lack of wairua, a lack of identity, or a feeling of helpless and hopelessness.

"What we've come to find out is that a lot of our whānau are victims of colonisation," Hune said.

"This programme helps to enhance the knowledge and practice of te ao Māori for those who are interested, and then they get to discover other ways."

The government said it wanted more services like these, but noted Māori providers across the country were seeing this demand.

Minister for Māori Health Peeni Henare has been touring the country meeting with 29 of them.

At a meeting with providers from the Wellington region at Ngāti Toa's Hongoeka Marae, he hailed the government's announcement of increased funding and the national network that had been rolled out.

"The message is hugely positive, the ability and the opportunity to serve their communities is coming through loud and clear," Henare said.

"I think the uniqueness of these services across the country has really stood out for me."

It was an example of the type of services which would be increasingly bolstered by the new Māori health authority, Te Aka Whaiora, he said.

Te Waka Whaiora chief executive Carole Koha said all help was welcome. But already, it was not enough.

The Trust, and those it works with across Wellington, are already having trouble getting equitable access to the full-time staff it needs, bogged down by an apparent lack of trust from the bureaucracy.

"We have only been afforded 14 FTE to go across five providers," she said.

"You know we still talk about who is most at need, Māori and Pasifika is still the highest need but the FTEs are being afforded to non-Māori and non-Pacific organisations.

"Is that a trust issue? We'll leave it at that."

Henare acknowledged there was still work to do, a wero had clearly been laid before him at Hongoeka.

"That's obviously known to all of us, so we've got a job to do and there's money that has been set aside in the Budget to continue to support this workforce.

"How do we strategise to grow it? I welcome those challenges."

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