A play highlighting the problem of youth suicide was the inaugural Northland Health Sector Awards' supreme winner at an event celebrating the initiatives, quality and successes of people working for and alongside Northland Health.
The evocative play, Matanui, was written and directed by Whangarei playwright Bryan Divers, sponsored by Northland District Health Board, and toured around Northland schools as a response to a spike in Northland youth suicide figures in late 2012. The award was for 'Building Whanau and Youth Resilience in Te Tai Tokerau'.
Saturday night's awards evening included the Matariki Hauora Maori Awards, honouring Maori health initiatives and the integration of tikanga, or cultural practice, into clinical and community services over the past two years.
The themes for both the Matariki and Northland Health Awards - and at the heart of the initiatives being recognised - were "people first", "respect", "caring".
NDHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain said that reflected the organisation's service plan, titled Working as One/Kotahitanga.
Guest speaker Middlemore Hospital intensive care specialist David Galler, a former Principal Medical Adviser to the Ministry of Health and Director General of Health, congratulated Northland Health for its achievements, attitude and determination to make groundbreaking change under the banner of "people first".
Dr Galler said it was up to health boards and providers to decide what needed to be done for their communities and take the initiative.
"Don't wait for the Government to make decisions or help you," he said. "Governments will follow, as they tend to do".
The evening also saw two Northland surgeons, Jeremy (Jerry) Gathercole and Peter Milsom, honoured by the Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).
They are the first New Zealanders to be recognised in the Outstanding Service to the Community Award established in late 2012.
Mr Gathercole will retire this year after working at Whangarei Hospital since the mid-1980s. His award recognises the New Zealand model he created for childhood middle ear diseases with the ear caravan service in Northland and the 'Grommet Blitz' early intervention programme for glue ear in children.
Retired now, Mr Milsom served Northland as a general practitioner, obstetrician and surgeon. Former colleagues paid tribute to Mr Milsom's efforts in streamlining acute and elective surgery services in Northland, championing rural hospitals and taking opportunities to upskill, even well into his career.
Mr Gathercole and Mr Milsom were praised for their teaching skills, rapport with people and popularity with medical students and junior staff.