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Building Cultural Capability: a New Zealand Health Group Journey

Māori women walk through the New Zealand bush.

As Aotearoa’s largest provider of home and community support services, the New Zealand Health Group team is on a journey to build and strengthen our Māori cultural capability, to achieve equitable treatment for all New Zealanders.

“And what an exciting journey we are having,” says Ranei Wineera-Parai, Kaitātari Tumuaki Māori, Executive Cultural Advisor for New Zealand Health Group.

There’s been a huge eagerness to make progress in this area: as Ranei relates, “When Pae Ora mō Tātau Katoa, our Māori Equity Framework, was launched it was like a bull pushing on a gate. There was no holding us back. Once the gate opened, we have gone from strength to strength to support our kaimahi (staff), and clients.”

Pae Ora mō Tātau Katoa upholds Ta Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā model of wellbeing, to ensure balanced care of each other as kaimahi and those we care for. Every strategic plan and business case must engage with the question: will this make a difference for equity?

When Ranei joined our team two years ago in 2021, she worked with us to bring new life and leadership to our Māori cultural focus through the creation of the Cultural Services Team. New Zealand Health Group CEO Jane Kelley said, “having a dedicated Cultural Services Team provides a way for all our people, across our different business entities, to engage with cultural support and advice. It enables us all to understand how we can practice living the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in increasingly meaningful ways so that together we can ensure our clients and their whānau are receiving equitable care and support.”

Every day, our Pae Ora mō Tātau Katoa framework is shaping the future of our business, and this is just the beginning: 

  • When new staff join New Zealand Health Group, they are welcomed with a mihi mihi video from our Kaumatua Dr Taku Parai. With over 10,000 kaimahi in our organisation, and new people joining us every day, video means everyone can be welcomed in this special way regardless of where they are in the country.
  • The collection of ethnicity data is compulsory (this includes iwi) to help us understand the ethnic makeup of our kaimahi. There are also several Māori staff groups, which helps influence cultural understanding and provide direct access to cultural support. 
  • We have a Korero Mai intranet space, with collections of karakia, waiata, templates and reading lists, so our kaimahi have 24-hour access to resources.
  • Arianna Rangi, Business Development Lead, leads our health reforms project, reviews policies, and supports contract compliance with the new Paerewa, Health & Disability Standards.
  • Stephanie McNeill takes our weekly Te Reo Māori language classes, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori tikanga training, which has facilitated increased use of Te Reo Māori in all our offices, through our policy documents, and into our client assessment plans.
  • The Cultural Services Team delivers Equity Workshops which explore our understanding of bias and racism.
  • We give kaimahi the ability to build on their knowledge, either by online learning through our PTE MySkill, or Kanohi ki te Kanohi in person training. We have an expectation that this commitment is shared and demonstrated in the way we care for individuals and whānau in their whare or a shared supported living whare.
  • We established the Hiwa-i-te-rangi Māori Health Leadership Scholarship and the Matariki Support Worker Development Scholarship and
  • Introduced kete baskets into occupational therapy sessions to store pillows used for the head so they are not placed on chairs or the floor.

For New Zealand Health Group, fostering our cultural capability and capacity isn’t just window dressing. As Ranei puts it, “Being part of the Executive Team gives direct access to the development of new service opportunities, influence on New Zealand Health Group’s cultural responsiveness, and the power to ensure that kaimahi feel represented. The ride has been a bit like a bull ride, being fast and unpredictable, but we wouldn’t have missed it. The gate to cultural responsiveness will now stay open.”