A Te Aka Whai Ora-funded scholarship programme, Te Rau Puāwai, will see 177 students complete their studies in mental health and addiction subjects this year and be equipped to join the mental health workforce. 

Te Rau Puāwai is a health workforce development programme administered by Massey University. Te Aka Whai Ora is funding the programme with support of $1.4 million over eighteen months from July 2023 to December 2024. 

The programme, founded in 1999, aims to increase the size and professionalism of the Māori mental health workforce, by providing supports to Massey University students who are studying towards a qualification in psychology, nursing, rehabilitation, social work, social policy, Māori health, Māori studies, and health science. 

Jade Sewell, Maiaka Tau Piringa, Deputy Chief Executive - Service Development for Te Aka Whai Ora, says the programme is exceeding expectations. 

“Te Rau Puāwai students are passing with higher-than-average rates than the rest of their cohort. 

“They are then going on to have successful careers in health and making a difference in health and equity for whānau,” Jade says. 

“It’s important that we ensure Māori perspectives and experience are built into the mental health system. Growing a culturally safe workforce is an important part of achieving that.”   

Te Rau Puāwai offers financial support in the form of partial and full bursaries to contribute to the costs of studying. It is expected that students will contribute towards improving Māori mental health by gaining employment in a relevant field after graduation.  

Academic mentors known as Pou-ā-Rongo also provide individualised support to tauira through their studies. Pou-ā-Rongo are often past recipients of Te Rau Puāwai, or current post-graduate recipients. 

“Part of the reason why the programme is so successful is that it doesn’t just provide financial support, but pastoral care via the Pou-ā-Rongo scheme, which allows for individual learning and personal support,” Jade says. 

The Chair of Te Rau Puāwai, Te Kani Kingi, says the dedication and commitment of the team, and their work providing individualised support to students throughout the entirety of their degrees, has been key to the programme’s success.   

“The level of support for such a small team is impressive, as is their willingness to motivate, navigate, and inspire our students.” 

Since its inception 24 years ago, Te Rau Puāwai has helped more than 700 health workers into the Māori mental health workforce. 

Te Aka Whai Ora investment into Te Rau Puāwai aligns with the Health Workforce Plan recently announced by the Government, which outlines the current challenges facing New Zealand’s health workforce and the opportunities to address them now and in the future.