Just under half of the first graduates of the Whakatane-based Wānanga nursing degree have received job offers – a result that has slightly disappointed the degree’s director Ngaira Harker.

A medal ceremony was held last week for the 19 graduates of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi’s kaupapa Māori nursing degree, who sat finals on November 19 and a full graduation ceremony will follow in March.

Harker said the first cohort of Te Ōhanga Mataora Paetahi, (Bachelor of Health Science Māori Nursing) programme were predominantly Māori from local iwi like Ngāti Awa or Tūhoe and the aim was to graduate nurses to support the people of the region.

So she said she was a “bit disappointed” to date at the number of local job offers made to graduates.  By the end of November about four graduates had job offers from the local Bay of Plenty District Health Board – two at Whakatane Hospital, one in mental health in the community and one at Tauranga Hospital.

“I see that as a little bit disappointing in relation to workforce development in this region for Māori nurses,” said Harker.  “The reason we trained them was because they know the tikanga, they know how to engage with Māori and that’s a different world view.  Now they have graduated we need to get the DHBs on board to develop strategies to employ (Māori graduates) particularly this programme which is the only one in the country within a wananga. So they (graduates) are immersed in hauora (health) from a perspective that may be different from mainstream – and that needs to be infiltrated into the health workforce.”

Harker said other students had job offers (one each) from Waikato DHB and Counties-Manukau DHB, plus three jobs in the community with Eastern Primary Health Organisation (PHO) taking two and a Rotorua PHO taking one.  In total at the end of November there had been nine of the 19 graduates who had received job offers.

She said the Wānanga wanted the Bay of Plenty to see the programme as a taonga (treasure) for the region. “There’s so many Māori hopes and aspirations from both Māori nationally and within the local iwi (for the degree’s graduates).”

Harker, who has lead the school since the relaunching of the degee in 2015, said it was quite emotional seeing the first cohort reach the point of sitting state finals and awarding them the first Te Ōhanga Mataora Paetahi programme medals.  “I feel like (the degree) is sustainable now and  – based from the feedback we’ve got from providers, this community and nationally – our students are unique and are demonstrating kaupapa Māori in nursing now.”

“I’m pleased we’ve maintained and kept in close collaboration with iwi to make sure we meet what they were looking for.  And I’m really proud – as it was a big challenge for me, given I’m not from the region – so I’m just really humbled to have lead the programme.  And can’t believe we are the end of the third year and graduating students. Fingers crossed for State.” She said it was also grateful for the support they’ve had from other heads of schools and nationally from providers.

Harker has resigned to take up a new position early next year as Director of Nursing, Māori Health, at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

She said the appointment of Dr Deborah Rowe as her replacement was a “real coup” and boded well for the programme’s future.

The Te Ōhanga Mataora Paetahi degree was first initiated in partnership with Te Kaunihera o Ngā Neehi o Māori Aotearoa (the National Council of Māori Nurses) and an initial pilot cohort was offered by the Wānanga in Auckland starting in 2009.  But after those first Auckland graduates sat state finals in November 2011 the degree was shelved until it was slightly modified and relaunched in Whakatane in 2015.

Of the 34 students  who first enrolled in Whakatane in February 2015, 25 were remaining at the start of this year and 19 of those went on to sit state finals on November 21.  (Harker said some of the third-year students had to leave for whānau reasons and would be returning next year to complete their studies.)

For 2019 the school had about 27 first year students enrolled (they take a maximum cohort of 30) and expected to have about 21-23 second year students, and 21-22 third year students, including some transfers.











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