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Whyora improving health career opportunities

WhyOra Cadet Grace Harris
WhyOra Cadet Grace Harris

The face of Taranaki’s healthcare sector is changing. WhyOra, an organisation dedicated to boosting the number of Máori working in health, is making significant inroads through its pathways programme, says general manager Tanya Anaha.

“Taranaki Maori are disproportionately represented in negative health statistics, most specifically death from all cancers, lung cancer incidence, cardiovascular disease deaths, suicide, children’s oral health and respiratory disease deaths,” Tanya says.

“Research shows people are more inclined to use and respond better to services where there is cultural concordance between patients and their healthcare professionals. “That is why the vision of WhyOra is for Taranaki to have a competent, skilled Maori health and disability workforce equal in proportion to its population who can provide culturally appropriate services.”

The wide-reaching programme has led to 71 Maori gaining employment in the health sector since 2010. Now, there are 87 students taking health-related courses at tertiary institutes around New Zealand.

The pathway programme has already had an impact on the Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB). When WhyOra first began only 6% of the workforce were Maori. “It was 8.9% the last time I checked,” she says.

It all begins with sowing seeds at secondary school. In 2011, the Incubator programme was introduced to Year 12 and 13 students at Hawera and Waitara High Schools. This involved five workshops aimed at inspiring young people to think about a career in health. By 2013, all 13 Taranaki secondary schools participated, but it was noticed that many students were entering the programme without having at least one science subject.

To address this, the Putaiao Expo was introduced in 2016 for Year 9 and 10 students. The goal was to encourage students to take science beyond the compulsory years. This year, 350 students in Year 9 and 10, attended the expo at Pukekura Raceway in New Plymouth.

A big way WhyOra helps young people fulfil their ambitions is through a cadetship programme in a two-way partnership with the TDHB. “Young Maori can gain cadetships and in the past, we have had dental assistants, administration support, social work positions and graduate nurses.”

WhyOra supports this affirmative action by paying the wages of cadets for up to 12 months. The host gets to know the cadet and when a job comes up, it’s expected they will employ them. “Which has happened 100 per cent of the time,” Tanya says.

In six years, 15 cadets have gone through the programme, and one was just honoured by placing second for the Te Pae Tawhiti award at the South Taranaki Youth to Work Awards.

Internships for students studying for degrees in health or disability are also available.

“We are excited that our first doctor graduates this year with a further five in the pipe line.”

Along with the expos, workshops and pathway advice, the organisation also offers pastoral care. “I have now got a library of midwife books. We issue them out when students need them,” she says.

TSB Community Trust has been a long-term supporter of the work of WhyOra (formerly known as Whakatipuranga Rima Rau). The Trust has funded WhyOra since it was set up in 2009.