BOPDHB Checkup April 2019 | Page 16

Learning Te Reo Māori as a Health Professional Recently Te Koru Therapy & Rehab Speech Language Therapist Fiona Dominick and Occupational Therapist Beth Robertson graduated from Te Whare Wānanga O Awanuiārangi with Te Pōkaitahi Reo (Rumaki, Reo Rua) (Te Kaupae Tahi). Below is an extract of Fiona’s thoughts about her te reo journey that was shared with Te Koru staff. Who am I? Where am I from? These don’t sound like typical questions we ask ourselves to improve health services we provide to our communities. They were not the questions I expected to be asking when learning Te Reo Māori. I thought I was going to learn a language on a course but I was soon to experience a shift in mind-set which allowed me to reflect more deeply. When I first moved to Whakatāne from Dunoon, Scotland, with my husband, we were lucky to connect with Te Whānau-ā-Apanui in our first year. He landed a job working with Te Ao Hou PHO in Ōpōtiki and his rangatira (leader) was Leanne Morehu. She took us to Te Kaha and onto Pāhāōa marae where her Kapa Haka group was training for Te Matatini. We sang waiata, we sewed poi, we ate delicious kai and we experienced the generosity, love and kindness of Te Ao Māori. I felt at home there, and I often pondered on why I had a longing to be sharing space with tangata whenua (indigenous to Aotearoa) thereafter. Fast forward 12 years, and it was time to weave in my informal learnings of Te Ao Māori and begin my journey studying Te Reo, enrolling to do Pōkaitahi Reo, Te Kaupae Tahi with Te Whare Wānanga O Awanuiārangi. It seemed obvious to me that working as a Speech and Language Therapist in the Eastern Bay, knowing both English and Te Reo Māori would be helpful in providing a good service to tangata whaiora (clients). What I didn’t realise was that it would be a journey of self-discovery and I would be learning more than a language. I started the course in June 2018 with some colleagues from Whakatāne including Beth Robertson. Our first two aromatawai (assignments) were learning our Whakapapa (lineage/genealogy/ connections to people) and our Pepeha (connections to the land). I had to put some serious thought into where I was from, as I was born in Scotland and moved around a lot. I began researching my clan and discovered that within the clan system, Scottish people had their own waiata, their own wisdom keepers and used rongoā (natural medicine), such as seaweed. Scottish people were Pagans before Christianity came along, and had a strong connection to nature, with a positive morality to harm nothing living in oneness with all living things (kotahitanga). We had a language that had been suppressed and musical instruments that had been banned for some time. Our Bards, who were entertainers that carried wisdom through stories, poems and songs, were killed and buried face down so they could no longer speak of our history. This was why I was here! My tīpuna (ancestors) brought me to Aotearoa to learn from Māori that I had my own rich history and indigenous roots and a land that was waiting for us to wake up and remember. Whakawhanaungatanga (making connections and relating to the people one meets) really resonated with me. Often we get the idea of ‘Professional Boundaries’ drilled in as we study and learn our trade. However, working with tangata whaiora has made me realise that who you are and where you’re from and trying 16 Above: Fiona and Beth on graduation day. to figure out how you connect is not only ok, it’s an essential part in supporting someone’s healing. I have made connections through the kaiako and tauira (teachers and students) I have met at Awanuiārangi. You have to be open to sharing a little bit about yourself. The six month level one course has also given me the ability to pronounce names of people and places confidently and correctly. I can greet and ask tangata whaiora and whānau how they are in Te Reo Māori which is so very important to building a rapport with my clients. I have gained a deeper understanding of Māori customs and culture and have been able to make this part of therapy sessions improving the quality of care for individuals. For some this could mean starting and closing each therapy session with karakia and waiata. I had one client who would get anxious during therapy exercises, I discovered if we sang together this would put her at ease. Recently I was invited to a marae in Ruatoki by a client. I was a little nervous going, but my studies gave me the confidence about marae protocol to attend. I was able to see a wāhine I had been working with stand up and korero (speak) in Māori for the first time since she had a stroke and it was a beautiful moment that brought happy tears! If you’ve been thinking about Te Reo classes for some time just jump on board and do it, you won’t regret it! Karawhiua (give it everything)! Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei. Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain. This whakatauki is about aiming high or for what is truly valuable, but it's real message is to be persistent and don't let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal.