A mental health nurse leader working across the Far North has taken out this year’s $3000 Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) scholarship.

Roberta Kaio, who is of Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa and Ngāpuhi Nui Tonu descent, says she will use the scholarship to complete her Master of Nursing at the University of Auckland.

She currently works as the primary mental health co-ordinator for Kaitaia-based Te Hiku Hauora’s mobile nursing team, which serves the Far North.

Kaio, who started nursing training later in life, said she was very grateful for the scholarship and the chance to continue her postgraduate study, after already gaining postgraduate diplomas in health management and nursing.

“I remember the days as a single mother with two children, knowing I had to do something better for myself and for my children,” says Kaio. “I became passionate about supporting people with mental health issues and those who experience abuse.”

After 22 years in Auckland, the mental health nurse moved to Ahipara with her husband and children to reconnect with whānau and the community. “We now have a better life balance, with time for fishing, being outdoors gathering kai, and time on the beach together.”

Her first job in the Far North was further south working for the Ngāti Hine Health Trust as the clinical lead and acting team leader for Mental Health and Alcohol and Addiction Residential and Community Services, until a position became available serving the Far North.

“I spend a lot of time travelling to clients across the rural Far North; however, I get a great deal of satisfaction seeing the work that I do make a difference to the community, and I enjoy being part of people’s journey in a positive way.”

“Community-based rural health services are essential for people living in remote areas,” says Fiona Gower, RWNZ National President. “It is heartening that health professionals like Roberta are passionate about working in regions such as the Far North, and undertaking further study to improve professional knowledge and experience for the provision of quality rural health services.”

Kaio’s most recent job in Auckland was as service manager for Mobile Community, Adult, Youth and Maternal Respite Services for Affinity NGO Services. She has also worked for Māori Community Mental Health Services for several district health boards in Auckland and at the Mason Clinic.

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