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More Male Social Workers Needed

January 20, 2016
From freezing work to social work – the late great Tangi Hepi.

From freezing work to social work – the late great Tangi Hepi.

Of 25 people who graduated with EIT’s Bachelor of Social Work in 2015 only two were men – and neither was from Te Tairāwhiti.

EIT has teamed up with Tauawhi Men’s Centre in Gisborne to offer a scholarship and support to men seeking a career helping others.

Named the Tangi Hepi Memorial Scholarship in honour of a counsellor who worked at Tauawhi for the first 3½ years after it opened and sadly passed away in December 2013.

Tangi was laid off after working for the Tomoana freezing works for 25 years. With a family to feed he took the first job he could find, working as an orderly and bus driver at the mental health unit at the Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

One day he was called into the medical director’s office and asked if he had been speaking to patients’ families about the patients. Thinking he was in trouble, Tangi admitted he knew most of them from his time at the freezing works and had encouraged them to reconnect with family members he was ferrying between hospital and home.

As it turned out, the medical director was not angry but amazed at the high level of engagement by whānau and the positive effect it was having on patients.

Recognising Tangi’s ability to connect with people, he encouraged him to gain qualifications to make use of this empathy, which he did to great effect.

The Tangi Hepi Memorial Scholarship offers a successful male applicant a total of $2000 over the four years of study, as well as a placement with Tauawhi support and space to study.

It aims to find more men like Tangi, says Tauawhi manager Tim Marshall.

“He was an amazing individual, and had this great combination of being compassionate and really straight up, and men in particular responded really well to that. They could relate to him, and he developed his own ngākau model of psychological treatment which was extremely effective – we use them still. He used to say: ‘My job is to help people to better understand what they already know.’

“It’s quite a different environment in Tauawhi where it’s all men – it’s not necessarily better, but it works better for some people.”

Men who are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents and are enrolling in EIT Tairāwhiti’s Bachelor of Social Work programme can apply for the scholarship. Applications close 14 March 2016. Contact EIT Tairāwhiti for details.