3 Nov 2016

Māori health caucus celebrates 20th anniversary

8:40 pm on 3 November 2016

A network of Māori health workers committed to public health are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Māori caucus of the Public Health Association.

The founders of the Māori health caucus in 1996.

The founders of the Māori health caucus in 1996. Photo: Supplied

Over the past two decades the caucus have used their expertise and real-life experience to advocate for policies such as a Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand, immunisation, breast screening and suicide prevention.

Public Health Association vice-president Adrian Te Patu

Public Health Association vice-president Adrian Te Patu Photo: Papatuanuku Nahi

Adrian Te Patu, the co-vice president of the Public Health Association (PHA) of New Zealand, said they were at the intersection of all health services, so Māori people stayed out of hospital and lived longer lives.

"This caucus, or having Māori specific representation at this level and in this organisation, has actually given us more kaha but also more opportunity to sit at a place and say this works and this doesn't work."

The group have been able to build and sustain the numbers of Māori public health workers and develop Māori policy within the PHA, develop strong Māori submissions in policy and products.

PHA Māori strategic advisor Keriata Stuart said an informal gathering in 1995 had grown to become a strong platform for awhi, action and workforce development.

"Both the PHA and the Māori health sector as a whole have benefited from the energy and commitment that Caucus members - all volunteers - have put in," said Ms Stuart.

Mr Te Patu said they were now in a good place where they could give voice to communities and influence how proposed plans could be done better.

"We're all involved in the organisation and we are all members and we're also at the executive level."

While the Māori caucus is celebrating their past 20 years, they will also be discussing their future plans.

Māori health caucus members (from left)  Hector Kaiwai, Katherine Clarke, Keriata Stuart, Papatuanuku Nahi and Cinnamon Whitlock

Māori health caucus members (from left) Hector Kaiwai, Katherine Clarke, Keriata Stuart, Papatuanuku Nahi and Cinnamon Whitlock Photo: Papatuanuku Nahi

Ms Stuart hoped the future would include an evenness and a very strong relationship between the two groups, as well as a strong Māori capacity.

"The number of people with great skills, the energy, the innovation and the rangatahi coming in with new ideas is just amazing, every year there has been more people and more amazing projects, and it just keeps getting stronger and stronger." said Ms Stuart

The Māori caucus are holding their annual general meeting tomorrow in Wellington.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs