Alamaine Tahitahi-Matiu has always wanted to help people.

But it was working with the iMOKO team swabbing children's throats which made her want to become a doctor - or more specifically, the first female Māori doctor born and raised in the Far North to return home and work locally.

The 17-year-old Kaitaia Abundant Life School student has been awarded a $10,000 Study Start Scholarship from AMP to help her achieve that dream.

"I didn't always want to be a doctor, but I've always wanted to help people and make a difference," she said.


"Last year as part of my work experience, through our gateway programme, I was given the opportunity to work as an iMOKO champion where I got to assess children and swab throats on a daily (basis).

"The kaupapa of Dr Lance O'Sullivan's initiative to give free health care to children, in a way that doesn't cause inconvenience for whānau, really inspired me."

Tahitahi-Matiu said, living in the Far North, she has seen the struggles people face.

"Being local I've witnessed the financial stress and the strain it has on some families, and the struggles and burden accessing and seeking services have on our people."

She said there was a need for more wahine Māori doctors in the Far North and she wants to fill that void.

"The issue I've found with people in our community is that they've not really felt comfortable approaching male doctors and also when it's someone who isn't Māori, that's someone who can't relate to what the patient has gone through and they find that daunting."

Tahitahi-Matiu has also been part of the Hawea Vercoe Leadership Programme, established by O'Sullivan.

"It teachers rangatahi (youth) to step up in leadership but it also pairs youth with mentors in whatever they want to go in to. This year I've been mentored by another Māori doctor from up here Joel Pirini.


"It's been inspiring to be able to learn alongside them and it's been empowering. It's boosted my confidence and given me drive - if they can do it, I can do it as well," she said.

Tahitahi-Matiu has applied to study a Bachelor of Health Sciences at the University of Auckland. She said winning the scholarship meant everything to her.

"I cried. I was happy because when my dream came true I realised that so many more rangatahi from up here were going to achieve great things because of the example that I've hopefully set."