Te Aroha Hunt is the coordinator of Tuai Kōpū, a new programme initiated by the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board (HBDHB). Tuai Kōpū is supporting pregnant Māori and Pasifika women living in low socio-economic areas, ensuring that they have equitable access to maternal health and social services.
The 29-year old acts as a link between the women and health and social services. “My focus lies on empowering māmā, advocating for their needs and providing the tools needed for positive pregnancy outcomes,” explains Te Aroha. “I am fortunate enough to co-design and grow this programme with the input of our local māmā.”
Of Ngāti Hineuru, Te Arawa, Taranaki & Cook Island Māori descent, Te Aroha graduated from EIT with a Bachelor in Recreation and Sport. She also completed a Certificate in Māori Health which, she says, was an eye-opener and increased her consciousness of Māori health inequities.
Te Aroha chose to study at EIT as she wanted to remain close to her whānau and continue to play representative rugby for the Hawke’s Bay Tuis. She also received an EIT Year 13 degree scholarship which supported her fees and was an incentive to pass her exams.
Falling pregnant in her third year was a big challenge. Te Aroha took a semester off and completed the degree in 2013. “The graduation ceremony was definitely the highlight of my studies. It was so rewarding being presented with my qualification. I had proved that, despite being a Māori woman from a vulnerable community, I had successfully pushed through adversity.”
Compared to these challenges, it was relatively easy to find a job. “I did a work placement with Iron Māori and was given a glowing reference which supported my application for the role as Aukati Kaipaipa, Stop Smoking Practitioner, at Te Kupenga Hauora – Ahuriri. I then transitioned to the Smoke-free team at the HBDHB before moving on to what I’m doing now.”
Her studies taught her how to communicate effectively and engage with people, to be innovative and to step out of her comfort zone. “I always felt uncomfortable, like the black sheep of the class just for being Māori. But to be honest it has been my greatest asset. I strongly believe that we need more Māori specific health studies incorporating Te Tiriti o Waitangi practices,” says Te Aroha. “It’s crucial that these studies are put through to the Government and are reflected in their decision making to ensure that we don’t stagnate with achieving equitable health outcomes for Māori.”
Te Aroha says she will also continue to study. On her cards are a postgraduate paper in Māori Health focusing on maternal wellbeing, as well as the Human Lactation, Breastfeeding and Infant Nutrition course at EIT which will put her on the path to become a lactation consultant (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant – IBCLC). There is no doubt that Te Aroha is keeping busy. “As a māmā of three tamariki, it’s the little things that I’m treasuring, for example finding a little bit of me time to sit and read a good book.”